Salty Fox owners open new speakeasy in Eau Gallie Arts District

‘Library card’ required at Lourdes Library; annual card costs $40, a day card is $5

Sam Buzzell and Veronica Just recently opened Lourdes Library, a speakeasy cocktail bar in the Eau Gallie Arts District (Suzy Fleming Leonard/FLORIDA TODAY)

EAU GALLIE, Fla. – Good luck finding Lourdes Library, the new cocktail bar in the Eau Gallie Arts District.

It’s located at 587 W. Eau Gallie Blvd. Unit 105, according to News 6 partner Florida Today. But when you arrive at the address, you see the entrance to Funky Dog Improv Studio. Traffic zooms past from Indian Harbour Beach as rush hour nears.

Where the heck is it?

Then you notice a discreet sign on the east wall of the building pointing down an alleyway. You walk past artist Mando Marie’s mural of flying girls, and there it is, an unassuming door in a small strip complex of offices.

You open the door, and the adventure begins. Librarian Vanessa “Veggie” Obermaier sits behind a tidy desk in a small room lined with books. Identify the book of the week, and she’ll issue you a library card, typing your name with a manual typewriter. Only then does she reveal the hidden entry in to the wonder of Lourdes Library.

Whew! That wasn’t easy!

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“That’s the point,” said Sam Buzzell. “It’s a speakeasy. You’re not supposed to find it.”

OK, that’s not entirely true. Buzzell and her wife, Veronica Just, want people to find their new cocktail bar in the Eau Gallie Arts District. But they also want library card holders to appreciate what they’ve discovered and to treat their library, named after Just’s late grandmother, with respect.

You’ll need a library card to check out the drinks inside. An annual card costs $40, a day card is $5.

You’ll also need to dress up a bit. Just and Buzzell put a lot of time and care into the appearance of Lourdes Library. Guests should do the same.

“We wanted to open something you don’t see everywhere,” Just said, “something smaller, more intimate, classier.”

They succeeded.

No detail was too small. Even the hinges on restroom doors are ornate. An antique mirror that belongs to Grandmother Lourdes hangs at the far end of the room over an electric fireplace.

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Both restrooms are equipped with bidets (careful you don’t flush with the wrong lever).

Behind the bar, Ethan Tyler and Chris Capobianco wear ties as they shake up craft cocktails.

Next to a jade velvet settee, a round marble-topped side table includes an ornate, built-in phone. Lift the receiver, and it rings Veggie at the library desk.

Buzzell and Just aren’t new to the bar business. They opened the Salty Fox a few blocks away in 2017. Before that, Buzzell ran now-closed Boondocks on Sarno Road in Melbourne. Just has worked in the hospitality business since she was 17.

“When I was over at Boondocks, I really wanted to be here,” Buzzell said. Intracoastal Brewing Co. was just getting started, and she liked what she saw happening in the arts district.

Salty Fox has grown into a popular neighborhood hangout, with a menu that includes paninis, sliders, tacos and a touch of nostalgia in the form of Spaghetti O’s, corndogs and pizza rolls.

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There’s a pool table. It’s loud and lively.

The couple wanted something different with Lourdes Library, something more grown-up.

They leased the space in 2019. Buzzell has a Lourdes Library Club card dated Nov. 26, 2019.

When COVID-19 shut down bars, they stopped working on the place. While bars remained closed for months, Salty Fox was able to reopen because it serves food. There’s no kitchen at the Library.

Now they’re ready for people to experience the speakeasy.

The cocktail menu includes literary-inspired concoctions like The Lourdes of the Mules (vodka, ginger beer and house-made honey ginger syrup), Fifty Shades of Charcoal (gin, black charcoal, fresh juices and simple syrup) and Noble Experiment (jalapeno tequila, lime juice, sour mix and Cointreau).

On opening day Jan. 20, Buzzell and Just watched as the librarian admitted new readers. It was early in the day. The bar’s not big, but it wasn’t crowded.

“It’s fun seeing the bartenders grow, and the things they come up with are amazing,” Just said.

They also enjoy seeing people’s faces when they walk in for the first time. They look around, take it all in. This is why Just and Buzzell have spent their adult lives working in restaurants and bars.

“It’s fun to see people happy and enjoying themselves,” Buzzell said.

Lourdes Library is at 587 W. Eau Gallie Blvd. Unit 105, in Melbourne’s Eau Gallie Arts District. Hours are 4 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday, though the owners are open to hosting parties and book clubs during off hours. Follow the speakeasy at facebook.com/Lourdeslibrary321 or instagram.com/lourdeslibrary_ for more information and to keep up with the book of the week.