Local restaurant operator Josh Cameron plans to breathe new life into the old Lucky Dill Deli location and transform it into an Australian brewpub.
Josh Cameron, a native of Australia who moved to the U.S. in 2013, is slated to open his new concept, Where’s Jubes Aussie Brewpub & Grill, in August at 277 Central Ave.
“I’ve always envisioned it as an Australian brewpub. In Australia, we have pubs on the corners of blocks and people would walk from block to block,” Cameron told the St. Pete Catalyst, reminiscing about his days in Australia. “There would be a bar on the ground level and a hotel on the top, and the Lucky Dill location used to be a hotel with communal spaces – it’s so iconic.”
Cameron, Principal of Crafty Hospitality, also owns The Oyster Bar in downtown and the Crafty Squirrel, the site of the old Fortunato’s.
Cameron purchased the 1,600-square-foot space inside the 100-year-old building in 2018 for roughly $350,000.
Climbing out of the pickle jar
He started doing the design work in 2019 and planned to demo the building in 2020; however, the demo application wasn’t issued before the Covid-19 pandemic ensued.
“When Covid hit we were treading water because we didn’t get the permit in time and couldn’t get PPP [Paycheck Protection Program] funding,” Cameron said, adding that there was a staggering backlog of city permit applications due to the disruption of the pandemic, and he had to get the building to meet the required development codes.
“It was a big hit to the back pocket, but we were too far into this and knew we have to make it come to fruition,” he said about chugging forward despite the major hurdles, also crediting how his family has supported him.
Cameron has funneled over $200,000 into kitchen equipment, including four brew tanks.
“We removed the original kitchen from our design in order to create a hoodless kitchen. We had to be creative so we will use modern equipment and initially open with small plates, but everyone loves good ole’ fried options and for that, we will use a vector oven, it’s like a commercial air fryer on acid,” Cameron said.
The dishes on his menu are still being crafted, but he plans to offer items such as beer-battered potatoes wedges, a classic Aussie burger, which has toppings like bacon, egg, cheese and caramelized onions, spare ribs braised in balsamic & rosemary, and unique dessert items like sticky date pudding with ice cream (one of Cameron’s favorite dishes).
Cameron is working with award-winning Australian brewer Brian Watson on the drinks. Cameron has spent the last year with Watson on importing and perfecting the malts, hops and barleys using SmartBrew technology.
The beers will be named after “silly” Australian towns and landmarks such as Mount Meharry, which is the highest mountain in Western Australia, or Pleasure Point, a small suburb in south-western Sydney.
He will also have vintage ’60s and ’70s posters of Australia lining the walls around the horseshoe-shaped bar.
Cameron is known for paying tribute to his homeland in his other locations as well.
The Crafty Squirrel, which he opened in 2018, serves party-sized cocktails poured from teapots, an Australian trend Cameron brought to St. Pete.