Ben Allen talks new East Naples restaurant with tropical vibe
Ben Allen enjoys making music, and now he's hoping to have a hit with a new restaurant.
The Estero musician who competed last year on NBC's "The Voice" announced Thursday that later this month he and co-owner Todd Brooks will open Ben Allen's Grill & Pub at 12655 Tamiami Trail E. in Freedom Square, East Naples.
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Allen compared the new restaurant to "a lot along the lines of one of Jimmy Buffett's places."
"We want to have a great Florida tropical feel to it and people know it feels vacationy — fun and relaxing when you come in," Allen told the Daily News. "Just to have an experience."
The restaurant will be in the same spot as the former Brooks Burgers, with Ben Allen's Backyard's co-owner being Brooks, who owns the three other Brooks Burgers restaurants in Collier County.
"It’s renamed and completely redone on the inside," Allen said, noting Brooks approached him about the idea of collaborating on a restaurant. "The menu is being greatly expanded."
They also will feature live music, and Allen said he's already reached out to former competitors on "The Voice" to perform there. He also hopes to bring Nashville songwriters to the venue to perform.
Allen said others have told him how they traveled to Nashville to take in the music, restaurant and bar scene.
“I just feel that’s a lot of what we want this place to feel," Allen said.
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The pub also plans to hold trivia nights and open mics. And for anyone who wants to buy a Ben Allen Band T-shirt or hat, those are in the works, Allen said.
Customers also can enjoy more than 20 TV screens, along with a 10-by-6 foot screen in the restaurant's back yard.
"I would describe Ben Allen's Backyard as a fun live entertainment spot," Brooks said in a news release.
The new restaurant will fill a void in Collier County and serve as a destination place for all of Southwest Florida, Allen said.
“I felt like that part of Naples is a little bit underserved, leaving an opening in there for a really good spot for people to go," he said.
“And it’s also worth people driving to. South Naples is something that’s developing in huge ways. It's not just North Naples is the only place to be. You can go to South Naples and there’s really fine entertainment value there as well.”
A Tennessee native, Allen moved to Naples in 2009 for a job as a building inspector for Collier County's Growth Management Department. He taught himself to play guitar and first performed at an open mic night at a Naples bowling alley in 2013.
A year later, he formed his band that began playing live throughout the region and beyond.
Allen in late 2020 made it to the final nine singers on "The Voice" before he headed home. It was his third try to make the show, and performing before millions of viewers was the thrill of a lifetime, he said.
"There's so many things that have been negative for 2020 and I’m fortunate to have been someone that the community can rally around and smile about," he said in December.
Now Allen wants the new restaurant to unite the community post-pandemic. And the Ben Allen Band will perform at the new place Friday, June 25, and Saturday, June 26, he said.
While the menu is still in the works, Allen said he knows one part of it for sure.
“There will definitely be a margarita made the right way.”
Dave Osborn is the regional features editor of the Naples Daily News and News-Press. Follow him on Instagram @detroitdave88 and on Twitter @NDN_dosborn.