CRESTVIEW — A new saloon on U.S. Highway 90 allows patrons to support 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) families and help Niemann–Pick disease patients while they wet their whistles.
The Split Oak Saloon — whose grand opening is Saturday at noon — had its soft opening Thursday evening, but for some patrons, it wasn't soon enough.
"We've had soldiers stopping by for weeks asking when we're opening," manager Cristina Dawson said.
The saloon is a partnership between Bill Berkey, a 7th Special Forces soldier who will retire from the Army in May, and Okaloosa County native Ian Christiansen.
The bar, licensed as a charity, is expected to donate at least 20 percent of its daily till to the local SFA7 chapter of the Special Forces Association, which supports soldiers' families.
"We'll be doing a lot of benefits for them," Dawson said.
The spacious beer garden, featuring a 60-tap bar, behind the saloon will be a venue for regular live entertainment.
Thursday afternoon, as bar staffers inventoried beer and liquor deliveries, workers outside pieced together pre-fabricated sections of a spacious wooden deck around the outdoor bar.
Four large oak trees shade the area, which will have seating, tables and a large stage for live performances.
Inside, corrugated metal walls, contemporary advertising signs and a textured bar create a clean, relaxed ambience. Indoor music is "customer choice" from the diverse selection on a jukebox that accepts credit cards.
"We didn't want to be a 'rock bar' or a 'country bar,'" Dawson said.
Berkey said he and Christiansen are aware of the shady reputation surrounding some Crestview bars.
"We're trying to change that whole scene," he said. "We're mostly a live music showcase."
"Something we'll work very hard on is our reputation," Dawson said.
Plans call for adding a restaurant featuring organic food, plus offering more than 100 types of craft beer, Verkey said.
Service members like to savor the types of beer they enjoyed while deployed abroad, he said.
Want to go?
WHAT: Split Oaks Saloon grand opening
WHEN:12 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24
WHERE: 892 W. James Lee Boulevard (U.S. Highway 90)
NOTES: Live entertainment; proceeds benefit the local Special Forces Association chapter and the National Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.