Some bar and restaurant locations in Key West just seem to be doomed. Some old pirate curse, perhaps? Indian burial grounds? As soon as a new business seems to be getting a foothold, the signs have come down, and a new proprietor has stepped in to see what he or she can make of it.
One factor is the outrageous cost per square foot it takes to open an establishment on or around Duval Street. No other location exemplifies this more than the spot directly across the old courthouse on Greene Street where the Sandbar now operates. In a relatively short period of time, after the demise of the seven-year Crabby Bill’s, it was Big Daddy Conchs, Guy Harvey’s, World of Beer, McFadden’s and Steel Horse Saloon, among others, changing identities on the average of every two years or so.
However, the Sandbar seems to be doing everything right. It features a long, narrow shotgun design, with two large rooms and an outdoor bar, drink specials, an extensive bar menu, live music, 54 draft beers and 34 televisions tuned in to whatever sports event might strike your fancy.
Josh York has been bartending at the Sandbar since the day it opened its doors, around 16 months ago. He’s originally from Southern Indiana, bouncing back and forth throughout his early years to various Florida cities, including Clearwater Beach, Key West and Naples.
“I always loved Key West,” he said. “I came here multiple times as a kid, a teenager and an adult. I’ve been in the hospitality industry my entire life.”
While still living in Indiana, Mr. York ran the Rockbottom Brewery in Indianapolis and worked at Pacers as a bar manager.
“I knew Sean Fisher, Mel Fisher’s grandson,” he said. “We went to high school together in Indiana.” And so, when Josh finally decided to move to Key West six years ago, he took a job at Mel Fisher’s Museum, where he worked for nine months before taking a job at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, where he bartended for three years. Now you can find him at the Sandbar every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 6 p.m. till around 2 in the morning.
Depending on the day of the week, you can always find a special going on at Sandbar. Mexican Mondays offer $5 nachos, and half-price tacos on Taco Tuesday. There are half-price wings on Wing It Wednesday, half-price loaded mac and cheese on Cheesy Thursdays, $6, 10-inch cheese pizzas on Pizza Party Fridays, and $5 Bloody Mary’s at the Sunday Service. There are two happy hours, one from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, and another at midnight till 4 a.m. (or close). And as far as keeping it good with the locals goes, the Sandbar is on top of it.
“We offer half off you-call-its for locals from midnight to close,” Mr. York emphasized.
As for bar menus, you couldn’t ask for a better selection than the one offered at Sandbar. Appetizers include tataki tuna, conch fritters, coconut shrimp, calamari and alligator tail. They have a variety of large fresh salads, tacos, burritos, pizza and sandwiches such as Hawaiian pork wrap and taco burgers. For specialty menu items, check out the churasco steak, baby back ribs brisket and the catch of the day.
When he’s not at work, Josh says he likes to kayak and get out on the water whenever possible. “I like to play music, play my guitar, sometimes out, mostly for myself,” he said. For a while he was in a six-piece local band, the Black Magic Marker Band, with his friend Key West musician Dora Gholson. He also has a daughter, Kaya, who lives in Gatlinburg, Tenn., who he had just dropped off at the airport to head back home. “She’s been down here with me for the summer. She’s 13 going on 21,” he said with a proud smile.
Stop by the friendly Sandbar and give Josh a shout, and help keep a good thing going. They seem to always have a good crowd, whether there’s a game on the TV or a musician on the stage.
“I love the Key West family,” Josh reiterated. “I thought about leaving once. But once I spearheaded a benefit for the Sorbelli family after they lost their son, and saw how much money the locals pulled together for one of their own, I knew what a special place this is.” ¦
The Sandbar Sports Grill 511 Greene St. www.sandbarkeywest.com