Hollywood’s not "the underground" by any stretch of the imagination. But while Polish-born Jay Rottermund was on a monthlong vacation traveling around Europe, he decided to open a bar here in Hollywood, Florida, that reminded him of the small, interesting, hole-in-the-wall bars that some squares refer to as “the underground.”
That initial idea turned into PRL Euro Cafe. And now the beloved local spot will turn 10 this month. It has been one of the few establishments to stick around in the always-changing Young Circle area of downtown Hollywood and doesn’t appear to be a carbon copy of every other place ever. With the help of Cheap Miami, the bar will celebrate itself tonight, April 10, with a garage-rock lineup of Pegasaurus, Olde Time Religion, the Bearings, and Qz. There will also be beer specials and giveaways all night.
With one of the area's deepest selections of beer from around the world (including its own namesake brew that is as cheap as it is delicious) and a mix of great people, weird art, and strange rock, it’s no surprise the tiny PRL has stuck around for so long.
“From the very beginning, we’ve stuck with mostly European and American microbrews,” Rottermund says. “At least every month, we host artists, painters, and photographers. And we bring in bands and DJs when we can. That’s worked for ten years.”
The bar feels like something between a smaller version of Miami Beach’s Kill Your Idol because of its narrow layout. Bands set up and play right next to the front door. But PRL also has the warm feeling and eclectic taste of Churchill’s. Cheap Miami’s Patrick Garcia has been booking shows at PRL for a couple of years now and said those things are what make him like the place so much.
“I like how intimate the venue is,” Garcia said. “Sometimes it’s tough working with the small space, but it's fun and usually gets people more into the show because it's all happening in your face.”
After inspiration struck for Rottermund, he set out to find a space on Hollywood Boulevard.
It took a year to open. Hurdles ranged from closing the deal on a location — the same space PRL currently occupies — to getting through the zoning and usage changes with the city. The bar opened in April 2005, at a time when people in Hollywood were bracing themselves for a boom that never really materialized.
“It was the top of the real estate bubble, and it was difficult to find a location, although we did,” Rottermund says. At the time, the city was in the midst of reinvigorating its downtown. Young Circle and ArtsPark were still in infantile stages.
“Everyone from the city to the mayor to the locals thought it would take off and be huge. Within two years, the stock market crashed. Lots of businesses in Hollywood kept closing. It was dismal. There’s been distinct improvement in the last several years, but it’s not there yet.”
Rottermund’s daughter and a few friends starting getting into the craft beer craze four years ago and wondered why a guy who ran a business devoted to craft beer didn’t have his own to sell.
Intent on keeping everything local, he wound up in contact with the Cape Canaveral-based Florida Brewing Co. He tasted a few concoctions, settling on the slightly citrusy, light lager now known as PRL.
“I figured a local bar should have a locally made beer,” he says, “And everybody seems to like it. It’s gotten more and more popular. It’s not number one, but it’s consistently in the top five of what we sell.”
Rottermund is working on getting the beer into Total Wine and other retailers so more people can enjoy it. A darker PRL brew is also in the works, though he wants to get the already existing PRL beer into wider distribution first.
Bars come and go in every town. Rottermund said he’s seen people open and close in as little as four months, and he doesn’t understand it, but that’s because he’s taken the tortoise approach. PRL's growth has been slow and steady, and it's paid off.
A decade after starting PRL, Rottermund says his focus has shifted to growing the audience for his PRL beer. But the bar that started all of it will always be the center of what he’s doing.
“That’s my baby,” he says. “Time flies. It doesn’t feel like ten years.”
PRL's Ten Year Anniversary Party, 1904 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. 8 p.m. Friday, April 10. Entry is free, 21+. Visit the event Facebook page for more info.