Rendezvous owner Jimmy Green has a confession: When he took over the bar 25 years ago, he had no intention of running it for this long.
“(I didn’t) realize it’s been 25 years until I got to thinking about it. It just goes by so fast that you don’t realize it,” he said.
In that time, Green and his business have survived a fire, a heart attack and numerous bars and business that have come and gone on his block on Felix Street.
To celebrate, he’s throwing a two-day bash that will feature bands who got their start at the venue at 619 Felix St. At 10 p.m. Friday, July 12, the ’80s cover band Blue Oyster Culture Club will perform, and on Saturday, July 13, Scruffy & The Janitors and Johnny & The Riff Raff will hit the stage.
“I wanted bands that have played their first show here,” Green said.
In his time at the bar, Green has run one of the few such venues that has endured the test of time. He watched the bigger bars on the street, like the rock-themed Hammerjack’s, dance clubs like The Shaft and Club Flatline and the country-centric Buffalo Bar, rise and fall.
“In my opinion, the larger bars with 200 to 300 capacity, in this size of a town, it’s really hard for them to survive. It’s really hard because their overhead is so much and their inventory is so much because they’re so big,” he said.
He looks at bars the size of The Rendezvous and its Felix Street bar neighbors like The Tiger’s Den and Felix Street Pub as survivors because they’re small and each found its niche.
“The three of us Downtown, small places like this, it’s easy to maintain control of it. You don’t have the huge staff, inventory or overhead. It’s why I think small places survive and big places struggle,” he said.
Since Green’s takeover, it’s maintained its dark, intimate dive-bar feel. Its walls are covered with art and pictures of bands and people who have visited the establishment. It has the bare elements of a bar to keep people entertained, like shuffleboard, pool and a jukebox. But mostly, Green said, what has kept people coming back is that it’s safe and welcoming.
“I’ve learned over the years (that) if you treat people like they’re welcome here and let them know that we appreciate them ... then they’re going to come back,” he said.
The proof that business mindset works is that his clientele is generational, with children of former Vous faithful becoming regulars.
“The people that were coming in 20 to 25 years ago, people that were frequent regulars, now their kids are coming in. They’ll say ‘You know my mom and dad.’ And I’ll say ‘Who’s your mom and dad?’ They answer and I’m like ‘Oh yeah! They used to come in here years ago!’ It’s always fun,” he said.
What’s the secret to keeping his customers happy? Green said it’s all about adjusting.
“You can’t become stale. You’ve got to keep inventing. You’ve got to keep creating,” he said.
Green said for the B.O.C.C. show, he’s trying to get as many of his former bartenders back for a group photo. He’s also looking forward to seeing some of his old customers come back because he promises there won’t be a 50th anniversary.
“I appreciate everyone coming in and sticking with me. But I’m not going to be at (The Vous) another 25 years,” he said, laughing.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live