Somewhere along the line, a good portion of Pennsylvania’s populace moved to Key West en masse. Not sure if it was spontaneous or planned, or maybe a little bit of both, fueled by word of mouth. I’d like to see the statistics, because in my 18 months of interviewing bartenders and musicians, there’ve been a lot of “born in” pins added to the Pennsylvania map.
Jake Navickas was born in Pittsburgh, where he lived until he was 25. From there, he moved to Cape May, N.J. (easily the second most popular “came from” state on the map).
“Before my parents retired, they owned a flower shop,” he said. Jake is an only child. “One was enough for them,” he joked. “They learned their lesson with me.”
Jake graduated from Duquesne University with a pre-law degree.
“I considered jumping into law school, but I felt like being on the ocean and being behind the bar was far better than being behind a desk.”
So, he got his captain’s license in Cape May and he moved to Key West.
“I’d been down here as a kid a few times.”
In January 2016, on his third day on the island, he landed a job bartending at the popular Hard Rock Cafe.
“I saved up my money and bought a 27-foot Grady White fishing boat,” he stated proudly. “So, I’ve been doing fishing charters as a hobby for over a year now.”
Jake’s girlfriend Lia, who comes from Annapolis, Md., also works at the Hard Rock and runs a business called Bakery Schmakery.
“She specializes in banana bread. She sells it at Mallory Square.”
They enjoy traveling together and recently toured Iceland.
“We went right after Fantasy Fest. We stayed in Airbnb’s, which was great because we love cooking and you always have a full kitchen. It was the perfect time to visit. You can see the northern lights.” They’ve hit LA and Vegas, and will soon take off for two weeks in the Caribbean.
Jake pointed out that our Hard Rock Cafe not only caters to tourists, but is exceptionally good to locals. That explains its longevity in Key West, where so many other national chain restaurants (Hooters, BurgerFi, Coyote Ugly, Planet Hollywood) have failed.
“At least 25 percent of my customers are locals,” he said. There are two locals happy hours daily, from 5-7 p.m. and from
10 to close, when Hard Rock
Café offers half-off booze and appetizers. Every Saturday night, there is a Latin dance party upstairs from 11 p.m. till 2 a.m., and it’s just about to start a Latin happy hour every Friday from 5 till 7 p.m. as well. There is outdoor patio seating if you want to watch the passersby on Duval
Street, and two floors of air-conditioned seating inside if the heat is too much. And of course, its world-famous rock-and-roll paraphernalia line every available stretch of wall for those who enjoy that kind of musical trivia.
You can visit Jake at the front bar every Tuesday and
Thursday from 5 p.m. till close
(usually around midnight),
“but I’m almost always here working somewhere.”
When asked what he enjoys most about living and working in Key West, he said, “The people for sure. Just the idea of meeting someone from somewhere else every single day is incredible. And the weather can’t be beat either. Sure a lot different than the weather in Pittsburgh.” ¦
Hard Rock Café 313 Duval St. www.hardrock.com