keys

The Keys, a new seafood restaurant and entertainment venue, held its grand opening at Celebration Pointe on Wednesday evening. Originally scheduled to open on Sept. 2, the date was pushed back due to Hurricane Dorian. 

Fans of Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar, which closed back in May, will now be able to enjoy live music once again.

The Keys, a new seafood restaurant and entertainment venue, held its grand opening at Celebration Pointe on Wednesday evening. Originally scheduled to open on Sept. 2, the date was pushed back due to Hurricane Dorian. 

Brad Heron, who previously owned Rockeys Dueling Piano Bar, said he wanted to combine the musical elements of Rockeys with a sit-down restaurant. He has been working on the concept for The Keys for the last two years.

“How much more Florida can you get than having a hurricane show up when you're opening a restaurant?” Heron said.

Heron is one of the three owners of The Keys, splitting his duties with Diego Ibanez, the co-owner of Emiliano’s Café, and Tony Espetia, the former co-owner of Rum Runners and Fat Tuesday.

The Keys, whose name calls to mind both the Florida Keys and piano keys, will be serving mostly seafood but will have options for everybody, Heron said. 

The menu will include clams from Cedar Key, redfish and shrimp from Key West, beef from Florida ranches, and stone crab and warm water lobster tails from South Florida, he said.

“We wanted it to feel like a trip to the Keys,” said Heron. “It's going to be friendly, fun and Florida everything.”

Prices for sit-down meals will range from $8.95 to $13.95 for lunch, $14.95 to $24.95 for dinner and $5.95 for appetizers, Heron said. The Keys will also have a bar where guests can grab a drink.

The Keys will feature live music during happy hour and a dueling piano show starting at 9 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays. Heron said he is excited to bring a nightlife element to Celebration Pointe by keeping the restaurant open until 2 a.m. on those nights.

“We couldn't be more excited to open the doors and share what we've created,” Heron said. “As the owner of and as a former performer at Rockeys, I very much missed playing for the people. I hope a lot of our Rockeys fans come out and visit us.”

A portion of the proceeds from the grand opening will be donated to the Catholic Charities Weekend Hunger Backpack Program, which provides weekend meals for children who depend on school breakfast and lunches during the week, Heron said.

Billie Denunzio, who is a professional chef and board member of Catholic Charities, attended the grand opening with 10 of her friends who are not involved with the nonprofit. She said she heard about the event before Catholic Charities partnered with The Keys through social media.

For dinner, Denunzio ordered the coconut shrimp, conch ceviche and pulled pork sliders. She said the atmosphere, the food and the outdoor bar made her feel as if she was actually down in Key West.

“This place is so unique and is very different from downtown and the rest of Gainesville,” Deninzio said. “Celebration Pointe needs to add more restaurants just like this to keep the fun going.”