Banging hammers and buzzing saws — those have been welcome sounds to Dave Rauschkolb, owner of Bud & Alley’s Waterfront Restaurant. “It harkens back to the beginning, when we had architects and builders, electricians and plumbers working together on the budding town of Seaside. The natural gathering place was Bud & Alley’s after a hard day’s work to share a meal afterward,” he remembers of Seaside’s early days of construction. “Some elements of Seaside were designed on napkins in the bar. That’s why we put this butcher paper on the tables, so architects could sketch designs on the paper while they’re eating. I’ve seen (Seaside founder) Robert Davis sketch any number of designs over the decades on butcher paper. It’s just awesome.”
Rauschkolb announced that beginning in 2017, his group of restaurants — Bud & Alley’s, the Pizza Bar and the Taco Bar — will engage in an enhancement project to be completed in spring 2018.
Bud & Alley’s, Seaside’s first beach-front restaurant and bar known for its casual fine dining, is one of the most notable historic landmarks in town, as well as in all of the 30A community. Celebrating its 31st year in business, the restaurant is South Walton’s longest established restaurant.
Beginning as a small waterfront restaurant and bar in 1986, Bud & Alley’s evolved over the years as small additions were gradually made to the original building. In 1987, the rear herb garden area was bricked and a stage was built. A few years later, a small open porch was enclosed and the iconic gazebo designed by David Mohney was added. In 1994, a new building was added to house the kitchen and rooftop bar. The roof deck was expanded by adding an open-air sky deck in 2009. After buying out his 20-year business partner, Scott Witcowski in 2006, Rauschkolb opened the Taco Bar. A few years later, the beachside Pizza Bar was opened.
His most recent addition, a new beach access, is the next step in the yearlong enhancement project for the restaurant group. “I had always wanted a beach access, and met with Robert Davis and architect Dhiru Thadani to design something that would lead directly off the Bud & Alley’s gazebo and right onto the beach,” he says. “When the building project is complete, this new access will directly connect all the way to Scenic 30A as the others do.”
The beach access is meant to enhance the experience for guests, making it easy to go to the beach or come up and get a drink or snack and go back down to the beach. “Having that intimate connection to the beach is phenomenal especially considering Dhiru’s design provides for sitting steps, adding an interactive arrangement for guests to relax together and take in the amazing views,” Rauschkolb adds. “Dhiru told me he designed the sitting steps for romance, with the design allowing for two people to sit shoulder to shoulder, touching while taking in the breathtaking views. I just love that.”
The enhancement project, which will be done in phases, will be the first building project to realize the vision for Seaside’s central beach. The project includes moving the Taco Bar and the Pizza Bar to the more central location along the road adjacent to the north wall of the historic Bud & Alley’s building. The Pizza Bar and Taco Bar will both be roadside walk-up eateries with outdoor seating and a long bar. The project also will include an additional 850 square feet attached to the existing Bud & Alley’s roof-deck. The new building will have an elevator to the roof-deck and a two-story restroom facility to service the roof-deck customers. Rauschkolb says he struggled to find the right words to call the project. “Enhancement project says it all,” he says. “The best part is that we’re not taking anything away, only adding to and refining the Bud & Alley’s experience.”
And by managing the project in such a way as to allow all Bud & Alley’s restaurants to remain open throughout construction, they hope to keep operations as seamless as possible.
Thadani, a Seaside Prize recipient, will be master planner for the project. “It was natural progression for me to hire Dhiru,” Rauschkolb says. “I’ve known him for many years and have a high degree of respect for him. Dhiru’s connection and influence to Seaside for the past 30+ years runs deep and I am so pleased to have his steady, creative hand guiding this enhancement project.”
Due to its historic significance, the original Bud & Alley’s building will not change.
“I place a high degree of importance on retaining the historical elements of Bud & Alley’s,” he says. “I wouldn’t have it any other way, and Robert Davis agrees.”
Rauschkolb has enjoyed witnessing Seaside’s changes over the years. “It’s been a dynamic process, always growing in a thoughtful, well planned and sometimes organic way,” he says. “I have always liked the funkiness of Seaside. And Bud & Alley’s structure has certainly retained that. For a building that has been added to in so many ways it sure works well. Each space has its own identity and proper proportion. It just works.
“Dhiru has worked with Robert Davis to create an absolutely beautiful master plan for the south side. And Bud & Alley’s being the first project to be completed in this process makes sense,” Rauschkolb says. “I’m as excited now as I was 31 years ago when I first saw Robert Davis’ vision for the future town of Seaside. All these years of being in Seaside and having the privilege to be a part of it and have a voice in that vision has been a gift for me … and I can say with confidence the best is yet to come.”
Visit Bud & Alley's online.