Michael Connell, the owner of Pub On the Drive, has passed away. Friends say he died overnight Tuesday into Wednesday. He suffered a stroke about a month ago, but the news of his death still came as a surprise. Connell appeared to be making a full recovery, and was making plans.
The Pub announced the news on social media, saying, “We are at a loss for words and heartbroken. Our beloved Michael Connell passed away in his sleep unexpectedly last night. He suffered a stroke last month & was still fragile. His close friends and family join us with tears of sadness & heartbreak but with such gratitude for having been able to share in his life. The amazing life of a great man whose legacy of love, compassion, humility, kindness & justice will leave those who knew him touched. Rest Easy Michael.”
The news was still spreading through the community on Wednesday afternoon. At The Pub, most of the staff had gone home. The remaining crew carried their burden and carried on, but the sadness was palpable.
Plans for memorial services have not been announced.
Connell ran a very successful business in the heart of Wilton Manors. But he believed the Pub was a community entity, not just his. He supported drag entertainers through thick and thin, support that was even more important this last year as drag queens were under attack by Florida lawmakers.
He was always striving to exceed community expectations. The Pub’s kitchen and menu has expanded over the years and, last month, the patio, known as Pride Hub, opened. Connell believed these do more than improve the restaurant, they improve the community.
The Hazelhurst, GA native and was married to James Walker. The two liked to spend summer in Chicago and warm winters in South Florida.
Walker posted a video of Wednesday’s sunrise, saying, “This morning the glorious miraculous sunrise is without Mike’s physical presence. The sunrise this morning is symbolic of the beautiful horizon he too sees on the other shore.”
Friends consoled each other on social media. His longtime friend, Lawrence Michael Giuffrida, said, “I had the privilege to know Mike for many decades. He was a wonderful man. My heart goes out to his husband Jim Walker and to his work family at The Pub. May he rest in peace.”