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The peaceful transition of power. From left: Elena Pezzo, Jeff John, Charlie Grippo.EXPAND
The peaceful transition of power. From left: Elena Pezzo, Jeff John, Charlie Grippo.
Photo by Wendy Rhodes.

Damn Good Hospitality Acquires Green Bar & Kitchen, Winners of Seed Food & Wine Week’s "Best Veggie Burger in America" Award

They say that everything happens for a reason. That seems to be the case for Fort Lauderdale’s beloved vegan eatery Green Bar & Kitchen. Owners Elena Pezzo and Charlie Grippo quietly sold the vegan eatery in October to Jeff John of Damn Good Hospitality.

And that’s a good thing.

Pezzo and Grippo are working closely with John during the transition and will remain on as brand ambassadors. But the sale allowed them to step back from the day-today operations for the first time in five years and take a much-needed break.

The time away allowed Grippo to create one of his best dishes yet: the BAD (Breakfast All Day) Burger. The croissant sandwich, made with vegan eggs, hash browns and vegan maple bacon, went on to win the coveted Best Veggie Burger in America at Seed Food & Wine Week’s Plant-Based Burger Battle earlier this month.

But Grippo took home more than just a trophy — he took home a new fiancée. Grippo proposed to Pezzo that night, and the two are excited to take this opportunity to begin the next chapter in their lives by starting a family.

Green Bar’s new owner, John, 41, is a Chicago native and has lived in Fort Lauderdale since 2003. John owns Stache, C.W.S Bar & Kitchen, America’s Backyard and the music venue Revolution Live.

While John is not vegan, he has been a patron of Green Bar for years. As a swimmer, snow skier and soccer player, he appreciates the benefits of plant-based eating.

“It takes you to the next level,” he says about a vegan diet. “You don’t feel sluggish, you have more energy, you think clearer, and you feel better because you are doing better for the environment.”

John jumped at the opportunity to take over Green Bar and says he is dedicated to keep it vegan. “We are honored to embrace what they’ve created and enhance it,” John says of Pezzo’s and Grippo’s vision. “I love these two, and I love their story.”

In fact, John’s commitment to veganism is one reason that Pezzo and Grippo opted to sell to him, despite more lucrative offers.

“We chose Damn Good Hospitality out of everyone because we felt they had integrity and are well-respected and admired,” Pezzo says. “They care about the employees and the community.”

For Pezzo, the sale is bittersweet. She and Grippo glow when they talk about starting a family, but they will always have a special place in their hearts for their first baby, Green Bar.

“We got involved with this because we wanted to heal people and make veggies cool again,” Pezzo says. “God put me on this earth to get people happy and healthy.”

John says he is excited about taking Green Bar to the next level. Future plans include offering catering, expanding the cocktail menu, bringing in live music, reopening Green Bar Express on Galt Ocean Mile, adding additional locations, and making Green Bar a go-to place for locals, regardless of diet preferences.

“The majority of customers are not vegan,” Pezzo says of Green Bar patrons. “They’re just people who want to eat healthier a few times a week.”

John says veganism is the way of the future and that he witnesses the demand for healthy foods in his other businesses. “Half of the artists that come in are vegan and we have to cater to them,” he says of the performers at Revolution Live. “There is a direct correlation between music and art and being plant-based.”

Green Bar & Kitchen. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. 1075 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale; 954-533-7507. greenbarkitchen.com.

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