END OF AN ERA…..

 

There are two constants in life. Change and death.

I am concerned today with change. Change to Key West’s beloved Pier House.

The Pier House has  been sold. $90 million. Big money for a special place. Official takeover by the new owner is scheduled for monday. Based on some strange faces at the Chart Room and Wine Galley last night, I suspect some of the new people have already arrived and are evaluating the operation from both a staffing and continuation aspect.

There is a concern among many that the Chart Room may be closed. Gossip is it will become a tee shirt/sun tan lotion shop. If there is any validity to the rumor, it is sad. I doubt that is the case, however. Hotel operators have to know a good thing when they see it. That is their business. The Chart Room works.

Then there is the Wine Galley. Bobby Nesbitt put it on the map many years ago. Larry Smith took it to a new level.

No one knows what is going to happen to the Wine Galley.

I was at the Chart Room and Wine Galley last night. Everyone appeared happy. I question the outward appearance, however. There was a sadness intermingled with the laughs. The unanswered question in everyone’s mind at both places. Is this the end of the Chart Room? Of the Wine Galley? Regarding staff, who will be retained and who will be let go.

An awkward feeling.

I love the Chart Room! I am there at least five evenings a week at cocktail time. My seat at the bar has become a note taking place for me. I write about the people I meet on the back of coasters.

I meet new people from everywhere. World wide. I mention some in my blog. The Chart Room is mentioned almost daily.

As a result, a number of people stop in to meet Key West Lou. They know it is my hangout. JJ, Emily and Mary will sometimes telephone me to make me aware that someone from Idaho or where ever is in and looking for Key West Lou. Tourists come up and ask if I am Key West Lou.  All read this blog religiously and know that the Chart Room is the place to find me.

I have thought on occasion I might be responsible for 5-10 per cent of the business that goes through the Chart Room. Could be.

Ghosts from the past can be felt. The Chart Room has been open and basically never remodeled for 45 years. Jimmy Buffett new to town playing his guitar in the corner for coins. The group who first made the Chart Room their special place each day. Most are now gone. However, a bit of their ashes rest in the bar rail.

Last night, Chart Room regulars such as Peter, Jean and Joe Thornton, Sean and Virginia, Dave, and Stephanie were there getting a last fix of their favorite spot.

I consider the Chart Room the cross roads of America. At one time or another, most people stop in.

The Wine Galley. Great music every evening. Larry Smith responsible. He entertains. He brings in guests to join him in entertaining. Customers walk up to the mike and sing along with Larry. Everyone has a good time.

The boss of the Chart Room is Kathleen Peace. The Food and Beverage Director of the Pier House. A lady. Lovely. Personable. Tough in doing her job. Does it well.

Kathleen also sings. A magnificent voice! Booming! I sometimes think the walls of the Wine Galley are going to blow out when she hits the high notes.

Kathleen was at the Wine Galley last night. I was the happy recipient of a hug and kiss.

The Wine Galley had a good number of people last night. I had the feeling some were there to taste one last time the flavor of Larry and the room. Fearful that it might not be there next week.

John and Ali were in from England. They used to visit for a month once a year. Now it is two times a year. Good for them! John and Ali can be found most evenings when in Key West at the Wine Galley.

Larry’s mother Helen was in attendance. Eighty six. Her husband/Larry’s father passed on several weeks ago. Helen has come to Key West to live with Larry and Christine.

Speaking of Christine, she too is entitled to credit for the success of the Wine Galley. She and Larry have been married for years. Christine is a school teacher by day. An entertainer by night. Paints professionally on weekends. A full plate! Many evenings she joins Larry in singing.  A special voice belonging to a special person!

Steve and Midge are regulars. Love them both! Last night Midge brought Vic over to me. Vic Kim. I finally found some one older than me that enjoys being out on the town.

The reason Midge brought us together is that we both graduated from Manhattan College. Vic was one year ahead of me. I enjoyed meeting him.

We reminisced a bit. We both knew my class mates John Martin and Otto Obermier. Both served as U.S. Attorneys for Manhattan. Martin went on to become a federal judge. Otto one of New York City’s outstanding attorneys.

It was a nice trip back in time with Vic.

Mary Deasy was in attendance also. Mary sings. Sang a few years back also. She was not that good back when. Larry took her under his wing, as he  has so many others, and developed Mary into the great voice she is today.

Ray was sitting with John, Ali, Christine, and others. I have not seen Ray in a while. He has become an excellent entertainer also. Plays the electric guitar. Has all the moves.

Steve was bartending and waiting tables, as usual. A nice guy. A good guy. A terrific worker. Most evenings, he handles the bar and tables all alone. He does the job of two people. Always on his game, he is the best!

This is sort of a good bye to what will now be referred to as the old Pier House. A new owner means now staff. Changers will be made. Again, I hope the the Chart Room and  Wine Galley are left alone. Together with the fine people staffing both rooms.

That which is perfect cannot be made better.

Enjoy your Sunday!

3 comments on “END OF AN ERA…..

  1. I have been busy with a new job and am behind on all of my pleasure reading (blogs, books, Sunday Times, etc.) but have the next two days off so here I am. I hope and pray that these new owners recognize a gem when they see one and don’t go ruining a good thing. We have been in bone-dry New Mexico for over six months now and while we are enjoying ourselves, we cannot WAIT to get back to Key West and it won’t be the same if the Chart Room and it’s employees have been changed!!! Thank you for keeping us posted on all things Key West and we look forward to seeing you again. XOX,

    Valynne & Paul (aka Caretaking Couple)

  2. We too hope that no changes are made to the Chart Room. We have always felt very welcome when we visit and each time we learn more about the history of the Chart Room. It is our favorite Key West drinking establishment.

    John and Kim

    PS. You may be interested to know that we have snow flurries in our forecast in rural Southwestern New York. Lovely!!

  3. Ugh! Louis, your analysis of this ugly situation has had me in a bad mood all day. In fact, I had to re-read this blog more than once just to begin coming to terms if this happens.
    My many travels to KW are not complete without evenings at the Chart Room. In fact, a few years ago I got to sit in as bartender as the regular guy got sick! When Michael was bar tending he once told me to get rid of the bar would be an ordeal for anybody due to the ashes being interred there. Hopefully that will help stop any thoughts of closing down my favorite place in Key West. Please keep us posted!!

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