‘Help more kids, eat more chocolate’

New restaurant in Pooler sells tasty treats and benefits family foster charity

The Chocolate Martini Bar in Pooler offers dessert martinis as well as food such as cheesecakes and dinner entrees.
The Chocolate Martini Bar in Pooler offers dessert martinis as well as food such as cheesecakes and dinner entrees.
Did somebody say chocolate?

At 1 N. Godley Station Blvd. stands The Chocolate Martini Bar, a new restaurant serving chocolate-infused food and drinks, all while serving the community in more ways than one.

The franchise owner, Maurice Gilliard, describes the restaurant’s food as all-American style cuisine. Though many people think “dessert” when they come across the place, the eatery serves appetizers and entrees including steaks, pecan chicken, pastas, sandwiches, and salads, just to name a few.

“The unique thing about The Chocolate Bar is that a majority of things have a chocolate twist to them,” Gilliard said. “We offer the Chocolate Bar Pasta, which is a white chocolate alfredo sauce mixed with bow-tie pasta.”

The owner said franchisor Bill Panzica, who opened the first franchise in Buffalo, New York, was a pastry chef for 30 years, so he has an extensive understanding of pairing pastry tastes with entrees and more.

“In the bar specifically, we have 32 martinis, all of which are engineered to taste exactly as they are described to be,” Gilliard said. “So, a chocolate martini would taste nothing short of liquid chocolate infused with vodka. The S’mores Martini is a beautiful mellow-chocolate color with flamed marshmallows on a skewer.”

The restaurant owner said that brunch is a new feature to the restaurant and it has an exclusive menu that was cultivated by the head chef of the pooler location. Gilliard said that the exclusive menu is a testament to the trusted relationship between the new Pooler location and the original franchisor.

“Brunch here is beautiful,” said Gilliard. “It’s a big deal.”

Some favorites on the brunch menu include Avocado Toast, Georgia Shrimp and Grits, Gumbo and, of course, bottomless mimosas.

Though the owner is satisfied with the growth of the restaurant after opening only a few months ago in December 2020, establishing The Chocolate Martini Bar was not as smooth as the taste of their signature Chocolate Martini.

Though the restaurant had its soft opening in December, the owner said his journey with the franchise initially began in 2013 while he was in Kentucky as an active-duty military soldier. Gilliard said a friend approached him about the great idea of opening The Chocolate Bar franchise after having a positive experience at the original restaurant’s location. Gilliard hopped on board along with a group of friends and they all invested in the new franchise with hopes of opening in Washington, D.C. For the new entrepreneurs, the venture was not the success that they had hoped for.

“Long story short, everything fell apart and the group pot of money was squandered,” Gilliard said. “We had nothing left but the rights to the franchise and that began our business journey to where we stand as we’ve developed here.”

Almost a decade later, Gilliard said he and his current partners did not give up on the idea and he eventually met the right realtor, the right developer, and the right lending institution, and now the business is becoming quite popular in its current location. He said that his years in the military developed within him a stick-with-it attitude.

“Establishing this restaurant was a testament of business and professional development within myself and my partners, saying that we stick to something that we put our minds to between 2013 to now,” he said. “Did I ever envision myself being a restaurateur? Not quite, but I also didn’t envision myself being the president of a charity, so I like the challenges.”

Gilliard and his wife, Whitney Gilliard, are the founders of G&Co., a facility that aids teens as they transfer out of the foster care system. Gilliard says his family charity, G&Co, began operation five months before The Chocolate Martini Bar.

“G stands for Gilliard. We specifically focus on young adults that are aging out of the foster care system at the age of 18. So, we provide them housing, they receive mentoring, life skills, financial literacy training and more from us.”— Maurice Gilliard, The Chocolate Martini Bar

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The owner shared the family’s personal motivation for starting their charity.

“My wife was in foster care for seven years and she actually aged out,” the owner said. “Her experiences in life and what she’s been through led us to giving back.”

As the second quarter of business begins for the new restaurant, The Chocolate Bar will work hand-in-hand with the charity, donating a portion of their proceeds to G&Co.

“The community support is much appreciated and much needed,” Gilliard said. “And by supporting our restaurant you’re supporting our family foundation, so we always say ‘Help more kids and eat more chocolate.’”

The Chocolate Martini Bar is located at 1 N. Godley Station Blvd., Pooler. Visit them online at thechocolatebar.com.

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