For some, life can seem like a roller coaster ride. Others compare their experiences to different carnival attractions. “I served in that Merry-Go-Round called the hospitality industry for more than 25 years,” recalls Jackson Padgett, co-owner—with his life and business partner, Mark Negrete—of Georgie’s Alibi and Bill’s Filling Station, both in Wilton Manors. As to his most lasting achievement (prior to laying down stakes in the Gayborhood) Padgett points to a familiar South Florida landmark. “I loved helping to build and establish the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino,” he says. “That was truly one of those things that may only happen once in your life, what I would have to say was the crowning of my career.”
“After Mark and I met, I decided it was time to leave corporate America. We wanted something that we could do together, have a couple of drinks, and then go home, prepare dinner, and let the staff do the work until it was time to lock the door at 2 a.m.,” Padgett recalls, then pauses before adding, “Let’s put it this way, if anyone ever comes up to you and asks if you’d like to buy a bar—RUN in the opposite direction.” He lets loose with a hearty laugh.
“We purchased Bill’s Filling Station—the original by the railroad tracks [on Northeast 13th Street in Fort Lauderdale]—and we truly did have a blast there,” says Negrete. “But we also knew that we were off the beaten track, and the building really needed upgrading, so we began the search for a new location.” Their search took them to the heart of the Gayborhood, Wilton Drive. “Chardee’s dinner club had recently closed, so we called Tony Dee,” recalls Negrete. “We inked the deal and started the renovations to transform the former dinner club into our vision. We renamed the piano bar the ‘Mustang Lounge,’ and we still have the baby grand piano there.
Each week, we have a great team [Andy Fiacco and Ric Ducosin] host our Karaoke night, and we are consistently packed,” he adds, smiling. Not long after, the couple acquired nearby Georgie’s Alibi, a Wilton Manors staple located right across the Drive, in the Shoppes of Wilton Manors.
“We work hard to make people feel welcome,” Padgett says. “We have strived to make people feel at home, and without sounding cliché, we want to be where everyone knows your name, that is the bottom line: If people are happy and have a great time.”
Negrete says that along with great service, they add to the mix great entertainment, including their house VJ’s Barry Browder and Robert Frye, and performers like Nikki Adams, Dame Edna, and (when she’s in town) Cashetta.
“An absolute winning combination,” Padgett calls it. “We are in the process of expanding the Manchester Room, taking part of the former Bottoms and Tops [retail location], which will make that side of the bar explode. Couple that with award-winning Chef Ron and our catering division—we are very proud of the Alibi,” he adds with a contented smile.