Sarasota's Cock & Bull.

Image: Gene Pollux

When they were younger, Big Top Brewing Company co-owners Mike Bisaha and Seth Murauskas used to hang out at the Cock & Bull and explore the renowned bar's huge list of craft beers. Both of them are quick to say that Big Top, which opened in 2013, would not exist if it hadn't been for the Cock & Bull and the bar's owners, Howie and Dawn Hochberg.

"They're the godfathers of craft beer in Sarasota, for sure," says Murauskas.

"That was our local bar, and it pushed me more into craft beer," adds Bisaha.

That personal connection will become more formal later this summer, when the Cock & Bull, which has been closed for renovations since June, will reopen as Big Top's tasting room.

The Hochbergs will remain involved in the new version of the bar and will continue to own the property. Big Top is currently building a massive new 24,000-square-foot production facility and bar in the Fruitville Commons development. Once that is completed and open, the Cock & Bull location will be updated again, with the idea of returning it to its previous beer bar format.

The Cock & Bull first opened in downtown Sarasota in 1997 and moved to its current digs in 2001. After the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hochbergs expanded the bar's food offerings to compensate for having fewer guests, and have developed a following for their bagels and other baked goods.

Dawn Hochberg says the two businesses have had a "long, long history" together. Big Top is one of the few local breweries whose beers have been featured at the bar.

Work is underway on renovating the Cock & Bull now. Major upgrades are planned for the backyard beer garden, where additional seating will be added and changes will be made to highlight the stage. Bisaha says he wants to make the space a hub for live music again.

"We're going to increase the amount of music that will be there, and really bring it back to what it used to be," says Bisaha.

The back patio will also be updated before the bar reopens, which should occur in late August or early September. Big Top has also taken over Lakewood Ranch's Naughty Monk Brewery and is rebranding that space, in addition to managing breweries in Pensacola and Gainesville.

"We're really excited," says Dawn Hochberg. "These guys have the passion and the commitment and the know-how." With her and Howie being less hands-on with the bar, she says she hopes to expand the couple's baking operation, and wants to schedule more special events at the space.

"Because of [Mike and Seth's] commitment to the craft and the type of people they are, we felt quite comfortable," says Dawn. "We couldn't have asked for a better situation."

Share
Show Comments