When Kevin Sprouse bought a rat-infested building in a blighted area, many family members believed he had invested in a money pit. With bars on the windows and a lack of customers, Sprouse opened what was originally supposed to be an art gallery and studio. One day, during a showing, he was pouring free wine for visitors and a friend commented that he should sell drinks instead of just giving them away. From that innocuous conversation bloomed a bar that became pivotal to the revitalization of downtown Delray Beach and a cultural institution of Palm Beach County.
Kevro's Art Bar is located off the main drag of Atlantic Avenue, just a few feet from the train tracks. It's the kind of place that many don't know about, but once they do, they can't forget. Sprouse, affectionately known as Kevro, uses word-of-mouth is the only marketing the bar has ever needed and indeed those recommendations have gone national and as far as Hollywood. Kevro's Art Bar was called “an authentic, intimate and creative space that harbors arts of all kind” by USA Today, and it was featured last December in an episode of TruTV's reality TV show Barmageddon.
Kevro's is an “art bar” in every sense of the term. It started out serving only beer and wine but graduated to be a fully stocked liquor bar a few years back and became one of the classiest dive bars in the area. Throughout its existence, Kevro's has hosted art exhibits and film screenings, and once it had dozens upon dozens of graffiti artists armed with spray paint cans, live drawing their best work. However, the feature of Kevro's that truly makes it stand out is not the giant Jenga, the arcade machine near the outside bathroom, or the corn hole sitting on an outline of an abandoned pool; it's the live music.
Every Friday, the house band, John Yurt and his outfit, formerly of the shuttered Back Room Blues Bar, lay down some classic blues for guests. On Saturday nights, Kevro's schedules a variety of bands, booking whatever they like, resulting in a box-of-chocolates sort of surprises. As supportive as they are of artists of all kinds, Kevro's invites musicians from any discipline and experience to open-mic nights. In fact, those can be some of the most engaging sets when a random group of musicians step onstage with their own gear and just jam together for hours. It's part of the creative spirit that Kevro's fosters.
This Saturday, Independence Day, Kevro's Art Bar will host an eighth anniversary party, and there's a lot to celebrate. For instance, Sprouse and his humble bar survived the recession shortly after opening, endured the battering winds of Hurricane Wilma that beat up the building something fierce, and currently, are under the siege of land developers constructing a sprawl of luxury apartments literally next door.
The SofA District, which stands for South of Atlantic, is an area in Delray Beach that's undergoing a major overhaul. Led by Jorge Perez's the Related Group and Kaufman Lynn Construction, the project is a series of pastel condos rising from once-empty lots, channeling the art deco vibe of South Beach. At the heart of the noise and concrete dust is Kevro's Art Bar, now dwarfed by its new neighbors. The Chicago native has been dealing with dwindling crowds thanks to the hazardous construction next door for a year, but he knows that although it's a pain in the ass now, in the long run, it can only benefit Kevro's. Originally, developers attempted to buy out the place, but when Kevro refused they sought his support and in return made some accommodations. They agreed to clean up any mess they made (there's been plenty of that) and they provided a plain, flat wall for Kevro to do with as he pleases. He might use it to show movies or, more likely, he and some artist friends may paint a mural, much like the ones adorning several surfaces around the outdoor patio area of the bar.
An artist himself, working in paint, photography, and print, Kevro keeps his studio onsite, near the rear of the property. It was once open to the public, but he hopes to be motivated enough to begin creating again. For the time being, though, he's happy being the owner of a spot that incubates fun, novel ideas, and an invigorating atmosphere that's spreading out into the city of Delray Beach and beyond.
Kevro's Art Bar is located at 166 SE Second Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-278-9675, or visit www.kevroart.com.