ENGLEWOOD — Kendra Porter will pour a signature drink, the “Porter Punch,” on Thursday night at Libee’s Sports Bar & Grill to raise money for her favorite charity Kids’ Needs.

Porter is childhood friends with Caroline Wright, the new owner of Libee’s in Englewood. She’s elated to be the sport’s bar’s first “celebrity bartender.”

“Not only is Caroline letting me work for tips, but she’s donating 25 televisions from the sports bar to Kids’ Needs — she’s a really wonderful person,” Porter said, adding she’s hopes the tips (donations) will flow beginning 5:30 p.m. Thursday.

In August, Wright, 41, opened Libee’s which is the old Norma Jean’s restaurant in Lemon Bay Shopping Center, 1859 Englewood Road.

After making some changes to the restaurant, Wright, who grew up in Englewood, wanted to give back to the community. She came up with the idea for the “Battle of the Celebrity Bartenders.”

She worked with her “old babysitter and neighbor” Erin Halstead, who organized the fundraiser. Halstead invited Porter to do it. Then, more volunteered to sign up. On Oct. 17 it’s Mark Rennie, president of Englewood Helping Hand, and Oct. 24 is Gary Vasbinder of Real Bikes Englewood for The Englewood Area Cancer Foundation.

“Each bartender will be able to schmooze the crowd to get as much money as they can,” Wright said. “I want to do this every year. I think everyone will win.

Wright added an all new 85-inch television and five 75-inch TVs, and one more outside. She plays all of the games on the NFL Sunday Ticket. She also repainted the place, but plans to make more renovations next year.

“My partner Scott Libetore, who is a Lemon Bay High School graduate, bought the whole plaza along with my brother Bobby about a year ago,” Wright said. “I had the opportunity to open the restaurant.

“Next August, I plan to gut the restaurant and add a wood-fire pizza oven, make the bar bigger, and put a smoker out back.”

In addition to a refreshed look, Wright, who is a professional chef, improved the menu. She makes her own pizza, smoked mullet and wings.

“The food is good, nothing upscale, but what our customers like,” she said. “My parents owned Howards Restaurant (in Englewood) for 27 years. I was a kitchen manager at Outback Steakhouse, and then Libby’s in Sarasota. So, I’ve been a chef for 12 years.

“I make my own dressings and soups. I am bringing in wild cod and Alaskan cod, fresh jumbo chicken wings, and my own corned beef. I pickle it brine and it tastes good on a Reuben or on rye bread. My burgers are made of brisket short rib in a ground chuck blend I have custom made. I love to cook and I have a really good manager, Dannie Reich. The bartender Amy Catrell is well-known. Everybody likes her.”

Wright says she also makes her own game day specials including the Patriot flatbread dish, Wisconsin cheese curds for Green Bay Packer Fans.

“I sit here and cheer for the Bucs, but nobody seems to like them,” Wright joked.

Libee’s, 1859 N. Englewood Road, is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

“I stay open during football season on Mondays and Thursdays as long as the game is on and customers are still enjoying it,” she said.


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