Pictured: Original Fat Cats owners Edward Schoen and Dylan Asher (center) with resident bartender Ian Lowe
INTRO: From Bartender to Owner of one of the coolest and hottest bars in south Florida, Dylan Asher finds long- term success in keenly observing and keeping the pulse of good times rolling all night long...
Q: How did the creation of the Original Fat Cats concept come about?
A: We feel Fat Cats, concept and all, is merely a result of its environment. During the earliest days, we were the last bar on the street, and we embraced that reality AS a concept. ‘First stop, last stop’ was our startup ambition. We feel we have, along with the street, morphed into an altogether different animal since then.
Q: How did you find and choose this location
A: I started working at the location way back when it was Lord Nelson’s Pub, almost 20 years ago. Around 2002, two brothers, Dan and Scott Kurland, bought the place and named it Original Fat Cats. This was supposed to be based on a signature hamburger of the same name, but difficulty and inexperience with food quickly led to us becoming just a bar, as well as Dan buying out Scott and becoming the primary owner. In 2007, I and Edward Schoen purchased Fat Cats from Dan, changed the ambiance to one more fitting, and immediately decided to take on the expensive risk of featuring live music every night. We were able to do this because we were basically living off our bartending tips, as most of the profits were put toward paying off our various loans taken out in order to buy the place, while what was left was paid out to bands and DJ’s. It took ten years, but we eventually paid the place off, but we still continue to bartend in order to afford this business model.
Q: How would you describe your bar
A: Diverse. We cater to all comers. And we like to make a family out of our guests, especially in a transient town where many people don’t have any.
Q: Your establishment is also very popular with an after midnight scene stretching into to 4 AM. Is this something you worked on developing and how different are the patrons at this time.
A: Yes. Very much. Even in the earliest days, WE NEVER CLOSED EARLY, no matter how dead it was. It took years and years, but this eventually paid off. As for the patrons, they aren’t much different, lest some added “in the biz” peeps who just got off work and want to unwind. Actually, these ITB (In The Business) folks were the crux of our business when we were first starting off. They are the reason we are here today.
Q: You were one of the few South Florida places selling a good variety of craft beers last decade before it finally took off in the last few years. You also have some very knowledgeable bartenders. Is this a priority focus for the establishment.
A: I’d have to say it was...oh, around 2004 when Ian Lowe, a resident bartender, asked Dan to hire a gentleman named Don Singleton to bartend day shifts. The hope was that he would bring his knowledge of beer and boost the sluggish early hours. It worked, and Don’s popularity, along with what was a pretty new concept back then, proved to be a winning formula. As for the craft beers, we continue to carry a menu of over 60 “resident” beers and a supplemental menu of a dozen or so “visiting” beers that we rotate and bring in on a seasonal basis.
We are aware that the competition for this market has exploded recently to the point of saturation, so instead of focusing on the number of beers, Chris Garcia (our current beer expert) handpicks the most interesting of the bunch.
Q: What are some of your most interesting events that have taken place here
A: We like to bring in touring acts when we can, and unleash them on a Sunday or Thursday as an “off- night” treat. Also, our reggae night on Wednesdays has become a staple, spanning over fifteen years.
Q: What are the most challenging issues for your bar these days
A: The street is changing, and we’ve attempted to adapt. Two years ago, we reopened the kitchen with what we think is the best and freshest “bar food” in town. We knew, given our aesthetic, that our food would have to be beyond great in order to be accepted. Also, the city seems to tinker with thoughts of taking away the 4 AM licenses and closing us all down at 2 AM. Although there may not be a noble argument against this, we feel it would be bad for the energy of a young city, and those people and tourists would just go elsewhere, leaving us to fend. We hope they never move forward on this.
Q: A lot of the newer places are restaurant chains or operated by groups running several restaurants all around you. Why have you not duplicate the success of your Original Fat Cats elsewhere? Do you plan too?
A: We have not...yet. We have a couple concepts, including a smaller “satellite” version of OFC in the just the right spot. We’re always keeping an eye out, although we are aware that over expansion at the wrong time can be a costly mistake.
Q: What are your future plans — are they much different from what is happening now.
A: We keep on keeping on, with improvements to enhance the experience. Plans for a video DJ feature for the time between band sets are in development, along with live cameras, in house and on the web. Classic is classic, while trends come and go. We try to improve, without tinkering too much.
320 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale | 954 467 5867
Open: Mon - Thurs 5 PM - 4 AM, Friday, Sat & Sun 1PM - 4 AM
Food & Beverage: Full Kitchen Menu served until 3 AM - 80 Craft Beers
Live Bands: Wednesday reggae night with Big Harvest, Fridays and Saturdays, the best rock cover bands such as ZBRA, Tuxedo Jesus, Thought Monkey, Franscene, Panic Disorder, Repeat Offenders. Also, Spred the Dub on the last Thursday of each month.
Ship to Shore with some Way Cool Cats: No question that the masses seek from all latitudes to join the Forces of Fun @ Original Fat Cats