Moock’s Tavern, opened in 1946 by Erven and Gertrude Moock, was once THE place for locals and major league baseball players in town for Spring Training, to eat and be seen.
Located at 709 16th St. N in St. Petersburg, Florida, Moock’s offered cocktails, seafood and chicken platters and Swift’s Tender Age steaks cut to order.
The tavern started as a small restaurant serving about 75 people at a time, but eventually grew to have four dining rooms and a capacity of 235. The larger capacity allowed Moock’s to become a very popular place to hold wedding receptions, civic meetings and club outings.
The Moock’s would operate the business with their son and daughter managing and eventually taking over the business. But, as 1970 dawned, Erven and Gertrude wanted to retire. In April 1970 they sold the restaurant and land they owned around the restaurant to Merlin Downs and his 31 year-old Joseph Alban. Even after the sale Erven Moock, Jr. would stay on and manage the restaurant. The sale would become official in June.
Things were still looking good for Moock’s for a little while but the end was on the horizon. A fire broke out in September of 1973, causing some serious damage. The fire, caused by an electrical short, destroyed two of the four dining rooms and the first floor suffered water and smoke damage.
In 1975 Moock’s suffered another fire, this time in the kitchen injuring two and causing more damage. The loss of revenue, personal problems and the $52,000 cost of the rebuild would ultimately cripple ownership. In September 1977 Moock’s Tavern was seized and closed permanently by the IRS. Merlin Downs and Joe Alban had failed to pay $24,462.89 in back taxes.
The property was put up for auction. Only one person bid on the venerable old restaurant. Louis P. Druehl of purchased the property for $33,000. Druehl would re-open the restaurant as a high-end restaurant called the Executive Club. The restaurant would not last very long and the property sat idle for many years. New owners told local newspapers in 1988 that that had a plan to restore Moock’s to its former glory but nothing ever came to fruition.
In 1990, St. Petersburg City Council ordered the empty building demolished, but the owners at the time convinced the council that they had plans and the building was spared. Those pans never materialized and the building was razed in 2003 to make way for a medical facility.