Restaurateur Rodney Mayo finally finds his right fit in Lake Worth Beach with Dada spin-off
Updated: Sep 15, 2022
AFTER YEARS OF flirting with the city, Rodney Mayo is finally bringing his Sub-Culture brand to downtown Lake Worth Beach.
Mayo, the South Florida restaurateur and club owner with a reputation for the magic touch, said he is planning to open a restaurant called Man Ray and another in his chain of Subculture coffee shops at 522 Lucerne Ave.
In the space once occupied by The Cottage and C.W.S. Bar + Kitchen, the coffee shop will operate from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the restaurant operations taking over in the evening.
“It will be a spinoff of Dada in Delray,’’ he said, referring to his popular restaurant off of Atlantic Avenue, one of 17 locations operated by his company, Sub-Culture Group.
“It will be called Man Ray, after the Dada artist,’’ he said.
Man Ray will have an “eclectic menu” and live music, he said. He is aiming for a December opening, although that’s not set in stone.
Dada in Delray Beach (Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority photo by Carl Dawson).
“I'm very happy to have Rodney because I know he's going to be a great tenant,’’ said Tony Lufty, who owns the building. “There's good synergy with what he’s going to offer and what Lake Worth Beach is all about.’’
Even if you don’t know Mayo’s name, chances are you’ve eaten in one of his popular restaurants, which include Sassafras, Kapow! and Hullabaloo in downtown West Palm Beach and, closer to Lake Worth Beach, Howley’s on West Palm’s south end.
The longtime Palm Beach County resident is famously picky about locations for his ventures. He has resisted overtures by Lake Worth beach officials trying to recruit him to their downtown.
“Rodney Mayo, to me, he's the real deal. It speaks volumes that he’s finally investing in Lake Worth Beach,’’ said former Mayor Pam Triolo.
“He's been watching the city for a long time. I've spoken to him about lots of things years back, even a restaurant by the (casino) pool 11 or 12 years ago.’’
The Lucerne Avenue space, with its combination of indoor and outdoor seating, has always intrigued him because of its similarities to Dada, which is off the main Atlantic Avenue drag in Delray Beach.
“I always said if there is one location that became available and I would be interested in, it would be The Cottage,’’ Mayo said. “It’s not on Lake (Avenue, which is busier). It’s on Lucerne. It looks just like Dada. It’s got the outdoor seats.’’
He said he considered a few downtown locations, including the old South Shores Tavern space on Lucerne Avenue (now occupied by the BluePrint Bar & Grill) and a space at the southwest corner of Lake Avenue and J Street.
Neither felt right for the Sub-Culture brand, he said.
Rodney Mayo plans to open a new restaurant in the this Lucerne Avenue space, which has sat vacant for more than a year. (Joe Capozzi)
After C.W.S. closed in 2021, Lufty called Mayo. “He said, ‘Now is the time if you want to do something,’’’ Mayo said.
“I wouldn't have taken any other property or any other spot in Lake Worth Beach except that one,’’ Mayo said, referring to its location close enough to busy Lake Avenue but without the traffic of Lake.
“I'm so glad Dada is not on the avenue,'' he said, refering to his Delray restaurant. "You don't have to deal with all the traffic and lines, like being in the 200 or 300 blocks of Clematis. (If visitors) see lines outside, they pass and keep going. It’s not the environment you want for a restaurant.’’
Mayo’s first venture was the alternative nightclub Respectable Street, which he opened in a run-down Salvation Army space in the 500 block of Clematis Street in 1987 at a time when few people went to Clematis Street and even fewer dared to cross the tracks.
Over the next 35 years, he helped pioneer the 500 block into the hipster answer to the more traditional offerings on eastern Clematis, bringing popular attractions like Hullabaloo and the Lost Weekend bar. This Saturday, Respectable Street celebrates its 35th anniversary with a block party headlined by industrial music band Front 242.
Rodney Mayo said the restaurant he plans to open in downtown Lake Worth Beach (first two photos) will have the same vibe as Dada in Delray Beach (bottom photo).
Many in Lake Worth Beach believe Mayo will bring a unique vibe to a downtown that caters to a variety of tastes.
“I’m very excited to have him in town,’’ Lufty said. “It’s definitely a sign of things moving forward.’’
Mayo’s properties are decorated with vibrant art, including eye-catching murals. Man Ray will be the same.
“They should roll the red carpet out and be so excited. He's a trend maker,’’ said Shanon Materio, who runs the McMow Art Glass studio on Dixie Highway just north of downtown Lake Worth Beach.
“If you go to his restaurants in Delray, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, you see how he sets the tone,’’ said Materio, a former West Palm Beach city commissioner.
“He sees stuff that none of us see. He has that rare vision that just somehow it comes together and he makes it happen.’’
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About the author
Joe Capozzi is an award-winning reporter based in Lake Worth Beach. He spent more than 30 years writing for newspapers, mostly at The Palm Beach Post, where he wrote about the opioid scourge, invasive pythons, the birth of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches and Palm Beach County government. For 15 years, he covered the Miami Marlins baseball team. Joe left The Post in December 2020.View all posts by Joe Capozzi.