After more than three decades of running as many as three restaurants at a time in Downtown DeLand, brothers Bill and Frank Jennings are cutting back. Way back, in fact.
The twin brothers have sold their last full-time restaurant, Byte a Modern Bistro, to Wes Harrolle and Jarritt Negri II.
“It has been 31 years, and we both want to enjoy life a bit more,” Bill Jennings told The Beacon. “We’re both getting married and have kids coming, so it was just time. We’re trying to slow down and start a new chapter.”
Jennings said while he and Frank sold the business, they retained ownership of the building at 145 N. Woodland Blvd. And Byte will occupy just the ground floor, while the brothers can occasionally use the upstairs for special events.
“It’s now called The 2nd Floor,” Jennings said of the upstairs space.
The 2nd Floor will complement the other business the brothers are keeping open, Venue 142. That business, which occupies another former restaurant the twins closed, is a special-events space that can handle wedding receptions, corporate events or other special occasions.
“It’s going nicely, so we’re going to focus on just the one business,” Jennings said. “And we’ll offer guidance to the new owners of Byte if they want it. We want them to succeed, obviously.”
New Byte owner Wes Harrolle said he has wanted to become a part of Downtown DeLand for a long time.
“My family is from around here, my brother in particular, and I was always coming here for special events,” Harrolle said. “I’ve always wanted to do something in the Downtown district.”
Harrolle was planning to wait until his nephew and partner, Negri, graduated from Florida State University next summer to start some kind of business in DeLand.
“It came up a little earlier than planned, but when Byte became available I took action,” he said. “I wanted to be more involved Downtown, and not just a spectator.”
Harrolle’s first day owning the restaurant was Nov. 20, and within a week he had already made a few changes.
“We have a new chef, and we’re re-creating the menu and making changes to happy hour,” he said. “And we want to offer more food options later into the evening.”
Harrolle also is thinking about doing some remodeling, but he might wait until the summer slowdown to do anything like that.
Byte is Harrolle’s first restaurant. He said he has owned a number of other businesses over the years, but the closest he has come to being a restaurateur was operating a snack bar at a skating venue in California.
But he’s ready for the challenge.
“I look forward to it. I’m ready for the challenge,” he said. “It’s been neat to meet people here in DeLand.”
Byte’s hours are 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 9:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 386-279-7527 or visit www.bytebistrodeland.com.