By Skip Sheffield
“I played this room back when it was called Bar 303,” Al Poliak reminisces. “I was amazed at how good the room sounded, even without the PA system we have now. The owners were looking for something different. It could have just been another bar, but this place is special.”
“This place” is the Funky Biscuit at 303 S.E. Mizner Blvd. in Royal Palm Place. It is a concert venue with restaurant service, and a reputation that has been growing among the national musical community. A Wednesday night Brazilian Music Series wraps up Sept. 25 with Rose Max. Upcoming national acts include Eric Lindell with Wild Magnolias Oct. 17; Royal Southern Brotherhood with Popa Chubby & Josh Garnett Band Oct. 25; The Heavy Pets and Sol Driven Train Oct. 31; Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers and Boca Raton’s own J.P. Soars & the Red Hots Nov. 9; New Orleans’ Bonerama Nov. 10; Lee Boys Album release Party Nov. 7 and veteran guitar hero Johnny Winter Feb. 16.
“We want to bring in a wide variety of national acts,” Poliak explains. “It’s hard to make a go if it as just a jazz club, or just a blues club. It has gotten to the point where well-known acts know about us and are willing to re-route tour plans to visit Boca Raton.”
Music has been a part of Al Poliak’s life since he was a teenager in the Washington, D.C. area. At the time there was a thriving concert club scene with such well-known venues as the Cellar Door, Desperados and the Ram’s Head. When a record label deal fell through for Poliak and his band when he was 24, at the urging of a friend he entered the brokerage business.
“I maintained playing, recording and writing all through my banking career,” he said. “I had no intention of getting into the bar or restaurant business until this opportunity came up.”
303 S.E. Mizner Blvd. has a long and eventful history. It started out as Warren’s Royal Palm Cafeteria back in the early 1960s. In 1977 actress, singer and producer Jan McArt gutted and redesigned the large space as Royal Palm Dinner Theatre. Royal Palm enjoyed a successful run of almost 25 years before financial difficulties forced it to close. The space has been home to several nightclub operations, but none has lasted as long as Funky Biscuit, which opened in July of 2011.
“It’s a tough business,” Poliak admits. “You can’t succeed unless your body and soul is in it. My day typically begins at 7 a.m. and goes as late as 3 a.m. We can only seat 120 people, which limits our income when booking a national act. Agents and their acts are working with us, and it is really starting to happen. I am friends with many of the musicians, and that helps. I’ve known Jimmy Thackery since he was with the Nighthawks in D.C. when I was a teenager. Seeing him is like a homecoming.”
A second annual Biscuit Fest with national and local acts will run April 4-7 2014. Call 561-395-2929 or go to www.funkybiscuit.com for more information.