By AARON WORMUS
Palms West Monthly
Posted June 3, 2019
Travel back to 2012 when the Miami Herald announced the Best Block in South Florida contest. “Walkable WPB” blogger Jesse Bailey called, suggesting we should submit a block on Clematis Street for consideration. We made a video and took pictures highlighting the 200 block and sent it off to the judges.
After winning awards in four categories, here’s what was on the paper’s front-page: “It was also a big night for another iconic South Florida street: downtown West Palm Beach’s resurgent Clematis Street, which grabbed a bunch of prizes, including a sweep of the people’s choice awards for photo and video.”
The 200 block of Clematis Street is still the best block in South Florida, and over the years it has only gotten better. The 200 block is home to the award-winning Palm Beach Dramaworks Theatre and boasts two coffee shops with Paneterie and Starbucks.
Dining options include Lynora’s, Grease Burger Bar, Batch New Southern Kitchen and Tap, Rocco’s Tacos and Duffy’s. The late-night crowd can dance the night away at The Pawn Shop and Monarchy nightclubs. For those looking to shop, there’s Clematis Street News Stand, Design within Reach and the oldest business on Clematis – Pioneer Linens.
Each of these establishments deserves their own article, but let’s focus on the newest business to open on Clematis – American Craft Aleworks on the corner of Clematis Street and Narcissus Avenue. The space used to be the home to Bar Louie, and over the last year has gone through massive updates.
“When I decided to open on Clematis Street I did a huge amount of research and discovered the very interesting history of West Palm Beach,” owner Rich Simon said. “I had a vision for this space.”
The attention to the city’s history is clear as we sit in front of a massive photo of Clematis Street during the 1920s which takes up the entire south wall.
Simon grew up in a family of restaurateurs. He brought in Frank Villarroel as general manager and found head brewer Eric Miller in Cleveland, who was getting his PhD in History but wanted to focus on his true love – brewing beer.
Simon then brought in Executive Chef Samantha Kittay to fulfill his vision for a unique menu. “It’s going to be a brewery with a full menu and a full bar and two 6-foot wine coolers. Bands will be playing from the second floor, and during football season, TVs will be playing the NFL Ticket,” Simon added.
Simon insists that it won’t be a sports bar, but I’m sure it’ll be the spot on Clematis for Simon and other local Chicagoans to watch their Cubs and Bears.
The work on American Craft Aleworks reached fever pitch in early May in its attempt to open their doors for SunFest. They got their final inspection on the Saturday morning of SunFest. I was sipping their award-winning Passion Fruit Deco, a Berliner Weisse, that afternoon.
Over the next five months, the 200 block of Clematis Street is going to get a lot better. Last year, the Clematis Streetscape transformed the 300 block and this year the city is investing $7.5 million into bringing the same curbless street design to the 200 and 100 blocks.
“People feel differently when interacting with the 300 block and we want that experience to be felt throughout the Clematis Corridor,” West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James said during the groundbreaking ceremony of Phase II of the Clematis Streetscape project. “When you pair a curbless street design with narrow traffic lanes, wider sidewalks and more shade trees, the effects are felt when strolling down the street.”
Businesses on the 200 block are open and are easily accessible, but the block will be closed to vehicles until October. The 100 block of North Clematis will close in July and South Clematis will close in August. Both will be complete by December.
Come to Clematis Street during Clematis Streetscape Phase II this summer. Visit American Craft Aleworks and support all the businesses on the 200 block. Enjoy Clematis by Night or one of the many special events that the city is hosting. Let’s create, as Mayor James put it, a Clematis Street that truly lives up to its potential.