SPRING HILL –
They’re out to prove it’s not a crime to open a profitable business in a tough economy, nor an offense to turn your first-ever restaurant venture into a franchise.
At noon today Felony’s Bar & Grill hosts a ribbon cutting ceremony at their Forest Oaks Boulevard establishment.
Owners Susan Alascia and Nikki Cucciniello opened Felony’s in April with the slogan, “So good it’s a crime.” It was the realization of a dream of more than 10 years in the making. The women wanted to create a truly unique atmosphere, something fresh and fun.
“We want Felony’s customers to think of us as an upbeat place, with great food and drink,” said General Manager Chris Morgan. “Everything we put into it was to make it that way. A lot of thought has gone into every little detail.
“We get a lot of families, and on sports nights it’s been standing room only. When people leave smiling and tell you they’ll be back, and when they come back with more people, you know you’re on the right track.”
From the first, Alascia and Cucciniello also intended it to become a franchise. Based on some recent inquiries, it’s possible that dream could become a reality. They’re already scouting for new locations.
The two women designed every detail, including attire for their young, all-female wait staff: A yellow tank top under a blue and black short-sleeved jacket, black belted short-shorts, black sneakers, a pair of handcuffs and a “police” hat.
Morgan said Felony’s two assistant managers, Dustyn Crabb and Brittany Miles, “helped tremendously in designing the bar menu and drink list” which includes frozen specialty drinks, cocktails, wine and a large selection of specialty imported beer.
The wait staff all profess to be happy members of the Felony’s family. Shantell Rosado of Spring Hill said she “really smiles” while she works, and her patrons notice her genuine happiness.
“We all pull together to help the place out,” she added.
Pat and Tim Wohlfiel from Hudson brought their friend Carol Carbuck from Cleveland for wings to what they thought was still Beef ‘O’ Brady’s restaurant.
“We decided to try it anyway,” said Wohlfiel. “It was great. We would definitely come back.”
The Wohlfiels said Felony’s “bent over backwards” to create a special order of wings that was “pretty close to what we used to get at Beefs.”
Jail bars greet customers at the reception desk. A lifelike statue of a shady looking character in a white three-piece suit and hat sits just inside the door, watching the activity at the bar. More jail bars are mounted atop the wall dividing the bar and restaurant sections.
Felony’s is brightly lit with tabletops of shiny metal. The walls are decorated with an entertaining collection of artwork-like caricatures of the owners and their spouses, criminal-themed comics and framed mug shots that dish the dirt on famous celebs who’ve been “busted” for crimes and misdemeanors.
A life-size replica of the electric chair sits next to a neon sign announcing “loan” that rests atop a shark tank with a backdrop of Alcatraz prison. Chalk outlines of murder victims designate the men’s and women’s restrooms.
In the banquet room, cellblock photos form a panorama along the top half of three walls. The bottom half of the walls is covered in sheets of diamond-patterned aluminum, adding brightness with an industrial feel.
Spring Hill contractor Larry Morelli hand built Felony’s bar and the replica electric chair. He also coordinated, mounted and hung all the graphics.
“Nikki and Susan would get an idea, tell Larry, and he’d get it done,” said Morgan. “He’s very talented and deserves a lot of credit for all the work he did for us.”
Felony’s patrons vary in age from 3-month-old infants to senior citizens. Singles and couples frequent the bar side; families with young children, small groups and retirees fill the restaurant and banquet room.
Morgan and the kitchen staff put in a lot of time testing new menu items. “We sell lots of wings and burgers, but have a huge menu,” said Morgan. “We only use top-grade Angus beef in everything.”
Breakfast is served all day and includes $3.99 “breakfast slammers;” a $6.49 “stool pigeon omelet” and $2.99 “juvenile breakfasts.”
Lunch and dinner items, accompanied by wine suggestions, include “The Felonies,” “Saladtary Confinement,” “Commissary Soups,” “Sides,” “Juveniles,” “Misdemeanors,” “The Slammers,” “The Conspiracies” and “Guilty Pleasures.”
At $44.99, the most eye-catching menu item is the “Jail Break,” about five pounds of New York strip steak grilled with provolone, mushrooms, onions, peppers and horseradish sauce on an oversized bun. It’s served with a large order of fries and large soda. If you eat everything within 45 minutes, it’s free – and you get a Felony’s T-shirt.
Those who try it must do so inside a special “cell” at the front of the restaurant. To-date there have been no successful contenders, although customer Melissa McCaffrey said her boyfriend plans to take-up the challenge.
Felony’s current entertainment includes Wednesday night karaoke with DJ “Krazy Dave.” Thursday is bike night with “DJ Dave Martini” from 6-9 p.m.; a live band, “Save the Radio,” starts at 10 p.m.
Morgan also hosts a sports talk show on local radio station WWJB that airs Saturdays at 9 a.m. The station plans to air an interview with Morgan about Felony’s in the near future.
Felony’s is open Sunday through Tuesday form 7 a.m. to midnight, and Wednesday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until 2 a.m.
BIZ AT A GLANCE
Name: Felony’s Bar & Grill
Location: 7285 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill
Jody Bowes writes regularly for Hernando Today. She lives in Spring Hill and can be contacted at JBowesHernando@aol.com.