The Coastal Star

Business Spotlight: Sweetwater’s success prompts owners to open new bar next door

Owners Sean Iglehart and Clint Reed opened Sweetwater Bar & Grill in 2011

in Boynton Beach. This month they are opening Saxon, which has a different flavor.

Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Thom Smith

    “Hey, let’s open a bar!”
    Giving the frivolous Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney concept of “Hey, let’s put on a show!” a 21st-century twist, entrepreneurial neophytes Sean Iglehart and Clint Reed decided to pursue their dream.
    Sweetwater wouldn’t be just any bar. It would specialize in rare whiskeys and craft cocktails. Bartenders would become showmen. And they would open, not in Delray Beach or Boca Raton, but Boynton Beach, in, of all places, Las Ventanas, at the corner of  Federal and Woolbright!
    That was April 2011. Customers drove from Jupiter and Miami, sometimes waiting two hours or more to sip a Blind Swine (sous vide hickory-smoked bacon, bourbon and rye, bitters and salted barrel-aged maple syrup) or munch on grilled Spanish octopus with yogurt, crispy chickpeas, dehydrated olives and almonds.
    Iglehart, a Florida native from Gulf Stream’s first family of high-goal polo, was a busboy and barback before studying design in college. He hated sitting at a computer. “East Coast mutt” Reed, born in Virginia and raised in Miami, worked in finance — Barclays, Bank of America — before hooking up with Iglehart at Falcon House in Delray.
    Each brought different skills to the bar, Reed the numbers, Iglehart the creative side.
    “But this place wouldn’t have worked if we didn’t share the vision,” Iglehart said. “He got where I was coming from and saw there was a huge void. When we opened, only a couple of places in Miami were really serious about it. There was nothing like it in this county, or Florida for that matter.
    “People thought we were nuts. We weren’t doing Atlantic Avenue, but I knew if we created a great product in an awesome atmosphere with good customer service, we could get it done.”
    Las Ventanas lacks the draw of Mizner Park and the diversity of Atlantic Avenue, but the location has its pluses. As Iglehart notes, Sweetwater is just across the Intracoastal from Gulf Stream, Ocean Ridge and Manalapan. Delray Beach, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach are minutes away, and nowhere else in Florida is I-95 closer to the beach.
    Popularity, however, has two edges. Two-hour waits aren’t acceptable for customers or for Iglehart and Reed. Their solution? Open another bar next door — in Iglehart’s view, “another room to the house.”
    Saxon, after the Germanic tribes that overran Western Europe, will open in March with happy hour and late-night menus, a different look and a focus on presentations by servers instead of bartenders. Libations will be more European — think 1920s Paris — absinthe, gins and brandies, fortified wines.
    Iglehart is confident: “I was thinking about what we’ve accomplished over the last five years, all the people who’ve enjoyed the atmosphere and the cocktails. It’s super rewarding. Plus it’s cool that we’ve inspired others to do the same.
    “Every day’s a challenge; every day there’s always something going on.”

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