Former operator stresses that iconic Village gathering spot will keep its same vibe
By John Morton
The iconic Blasé Café & Martini Bar has changed hands, but its former owner is certain it will retain the same vibe that has made it a favorite in the Village since 1997.
“It’s like the White House – the name of the president changes, but the place stays the same,” said Kevin Skiest, who sold the establishment, which includes the attached 3.14 Pi Craft Beer & Spirits pizza operation, on May 1.
The business is located at 5263 Ocean Blvd.
He announced the sale to his patrons the evening of April 29 during the live music. Skiest joined Blasé as a partner in 2016, assisting founder Cindy Breslin. Sadly, she died last summer at 65 at Skiest’s home on the south end of Siesta Key after a battle with cancer.
The new owners are the operators of Cask Ale and Kitchen, located on Main Street in downtown Sarasota, as well as other businesses.
“They’ve been in the city for years and have run some successful businesses. And Cindy knew them and liked them,” Skiest said of the new owners. “They understand the lease and appreciate the fact that Blasé is an institution here on Siesta Key.”
Not only is the name not expected to change, Skiest said, but the employees will be retained. As for Skiest, he said he’ll be on board for a few weeks to assist with the transition.
“Nothing is changing,” he said. “They’ll be running it as if they were me.”
Regarding the lease, it played a role in Skiest’s decision to sell. It has always been offered in only two-year increments, he said, with the current lease expiring at the end of 2023. His offer to buy the building was rejected and, coupled with the short-term leases Skiest saw no point in putting large sums into the building.
“There have been no improvements. It’s not in the greatest shape,” Skiest said.
Siesta Corner LLC of New York City is listed as the owner. Skiest said the group owns other nearby properties, adding up to what he called a “significant footprint” and said he suspected the owners could have bigger plans in the future.
Meanwhile, a changing customer base and a bit of burnout also played roles in Skiest’s decision.
“It’s just the same for me,” he said. “Many of our longtime local customers who are friends can’t afford to live on the island anymore, or are struggling with the traffic and crowds. The tourists are taking over.
“I got involved to help her (Breslin) get it more operational, to get more functionality, to make money. Well, we got that done. After that, I wanted to get it to its 25-year anniversary, which I did in January. In the restaurant business, 25 years is quite an accomplishment. It was a hell of a ride.”
Skiest, who has a career as a real estate investor, said it’s time to focus on his main profession and leave the stress and chaos of running a restaurant and bar behind.
“I need to get my life back together again,” he said.