The saying goes, don't judge a book by its cover...
Flight 747 Lounge and Liquor Store is one of those places where, despite what it might look like from the outside, it's more than meets the eye. From the exterior it may seem like any other bar nestled against the backdrop of Airport Road, but visitors might be surprised at what awaits them inside. Established over 25 years ago by Sue Dayal, Flight 747 Lounge and Liquor Store consists of three parts. The lounge, which is the only liquor bar in the area that still allows smoking, the liquor store, and a motel within the same parking lot, known as The Airport Motor Inn. Back in its early days, Airport Road had only three other hotels, a Denny’s, a Waffle House and a whole lot of cows. Today there are many hotels, the Jacksonville International Tradeport business center, several restaurants and the River City Marketplace brushing elbows with the historical Flight 747.
The name and overall theme of which came from its close proximity with the Jacksonville International Airport and the airline crews who supported it in those early years. It was only fitting for the 747 to throw a huge party for US Airways when they merged with Piedmont Airlines. The very first patron of Flight 747 was Delta Airlines employee, Clarence King, who after 37 years with the airline company retired in 2004. Today, Mr. King acts as the manager for Flight 747 Lounge and Liquor Store.
Born originally in London England, Sheila Dayal moved to Jacksonville 26 years ago with her parents who promptly opened Flight 747 and have been making their mark on the community ever since. Everything from retirements to wedding receptions, as well as, huge slumber and pool parties that last the whole weekend, birthdays and bon voyage parties have been held at the 747. Their patrons have even planned group trips to locations such as the Bahamas, Las Vegas, and the Florida Keys. They have also gone together on deep-sea fishing trips and to concerts as a group.
Sue Dayal, who, although she was married, was lovingly referred to by her patrons as "Ms. Sue" or "Sue Darling" passed away last year, but her vision for Flight 747 is alive and well in her daughter Sheila. "She had so much vision. She always saw so much potential in the place. I'm going to try and fulfill her dream", says Ms. Dayal.
In the quarter of a century that it has been open, Flight 747 has made many modern improvements along with expanding its original size to what it is today. In 2010 alone, Flight 747 has expanded its drive-thru liquor store and built a huge tiki hut outside called "The Hanger", Ms. Dayal says "Seeing is believing", with regards to the new additions.
The 747 has had their own fair share of famous patrons step inside for a drink as they passed through. REO Speed Wagon played pool, football players from the 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys have dipped in on occasion. 38 Special, Keith Urban, and NASCAR driver Sterling Marlin have also graced the doors of the 747. Even Hank Williams Jr. stopped in for a drink before a concert that evening and while he was there, gave tickets to the bartender. "It's just amazing the people who come in," says Ms. Dayal. And if the bands aren't dropping by for a relaxing drink before flying away to parts unknown, then they are performing on Friday and Saturday nights at Flight 747.
If the amount of loyal patrons wasn't testament enough to what kind of atmosphere Flight 747 provides, then a request from the White House might be. Five years ago Ms. Sue and her husband were called to the White House for being one of the small businesses still in business after 20 years. They wanted them to come to Washington as part of a small business convention designed to model those businesses which have managed to stick it out for more than 20 years, just as Flight 747 has.
The business also contributes to charity. Ms. Sue's favorite charity for over 20 years was the St. Augustine School for the Deaf & Blind and Flight 747 still upholds that charity today with their frequent donations made not only by the business but by their patrons too.
Ms. Dayal says Flight 747 is always willing to try something new and she believes that when people come to her business they really feel exhilarated. She considers her lounge a cozy environment filled with a broad base of people from all walks of life and she continues to uphold the vibe that her mother established so many years ago.