The New Helen Back, as it will be called, is slated for opening in April. “Some things will be the same and we’re going to add some other, new items.”
OKALOOSA ISLAND — On Jan. 1, Okaloosa businessman Todd Schweizer wished his Facebook friends a Happy New Year and informed them he was “in the process of opening some bars in Northwest Florida.”
Contacted on Facebook on Wednesday, Schweizer confirmed that one of the bars he was referring to was Helen Back Bar and Grill on Okaloosa Island.
A sale has been finalized since the first of the year between Quacking Duck LLC, a business with ties to Schweizer, and Chris Sehman, the former owner of the island sports bar.
The New Helen Back, as it will be called, is slated for opening in April, according to Ada Bowman of AB Plus Production. Bowman introduced herself as the project manager, business consultant and marketing director for Quacking Duck.
“Some things will be the same” as they’d been during Sehman’s 13-year run as proprietor of Helen Back, Bowman said, “and we’re going to add some other, new items.”
Bowman said the plan is to keep the pizza recipe that brought so many to Helen Back, and also the beer drinking, sports watching and raucous atmosphere that made it so popular.
“We want to keep the good stuff,” she said. “We want to make it a place where people can come for a good time on the water.”
Noticeable changes will include a new look from renovations and a change in restaurant management, Bowman said.
“We have a really good crew; new management, new crew,” she said. “We’ve created a clean slate for everybody.”
Sehman will not be associated with The New Helen Back, Bowman said.
It became clear last fall that the Helen Back franchise under Sehman, which had grown to include locations in Niceville, Crestview and Navarre, was foundering.
On Sept. 7, the state Department of Revenue revoked the retail beverage licenses at the island restaurant as well as Helen Back Again in Crestview and Navarre Chop House and Helen Back Again in Navarre.
The Northwest Florida Daily News uncovered a March 27, 2017, letter from the director of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco to the various entities under which the Helen Back franchises operated.
It stated the companies had failed at the end of 2016 to “remit (sales) taxes collected to the Department of Revenue.”
The Okaloosa Island Helen Back stopped doing business altogether in January, and Sehman claimed an extensive “remodeling” was underway. He said he was hoping to reopen in time to host a mid-February Mardi Gras bash. The reopening never happened.
Bowman declined to reveal the sale price of the Helen Back building, and said that Quacking Duck LLC is still weighing its options for the purchase of Sehman's other holdings.
Sehman did not return phone calls Wednesday morning seeking comment.