Ten months, $80,000, one lightning storm and one devastating fire later, Hatters Sports Lounge at the site of the historic Grant Bly House is finally poised to open.
Business owner Ben Mireles was three weeks from opening last October when a nighttime blaze swept through the main circa-1910 building, sending one of his employees to the hospital after a dramatic rooftop rescue by the DeLand Fire Department, and fatally affecting the structural integrity of the former event venue.
Although the fire marshal’s investigation could not determine an official cause of the fire, the report notes a nearby lightning storm that night could have been the source.
At the time, Mireles, whose business was uninsured, wasn’t sure he would still be able to open.
“I cried for about a week,” Mireles said. “My wife is why I kept moving forward — she’s my rock. She had a lot of faith in me.”
With help from a silent partner, Mireles’ big plans for his business are still in effect. The new opening date is Monday, March 4, at 5 p.m. Hatters Sports Lounge is now in the renovated adjacent building, built in 1993, that was untouched by the fire. The wreckage of the main building is cleared away, now serving as an outdoor game space with boccie ball and cornhole.
Mireles, who is still waiting on his beer and wine license, emphasized his business isn’t intended to be just a bar.
“We’re not a bar,” Mireles said. “I call it an entertainment-plex.”
Mireles plans on live music, DJs, bingo nights, and horseshoe tournaments, among many other things. And with help from his wife, Nancy Mireles, a development director with the Boy Scouts of America, the lounge is in talks to be the official home for Stetson University sports.
A smoker outside and air fryers will provide the menu options — hot dogs, chicken, brisket, ribs and fries.
“It’s for family, kids and the community,” Ben Mireles said. “We want to bring a historical property in DeLand back to the DeLand community.”
Mireles said people often stop by to check out the new place and reminisce about the old Grant Bly home, which served as a wedding and event venue for many years, and in fact a car pulled up to do just that while Mireles was being interviewed.
Some salvageable parts of the demolished house have been used as fencing around an outdoor patio, and Mireles keeps the rest for those who want a piece of the site of their happy memories.
“I hope now people can make new memories here,” Mireles said.