Open season: Island establishments are returning to business

The Havana Nights Piano Bar is ready for guests to return on Saturday evening, October 31, in Vero Beach. [Photo: Brenda Ahearn]

A pandemic can’t keep some island establishments down.

One long-time favorite, the Havana Nights Piano Bar, reopened this past week. The Polo Bistro in Pelican Plaza is planning to resume operation this coming Monday. And the Village Beach Market is doing its best to reopen as well.

Havana Nights Piano Bar, located above South Beach’s Maison Martinique, had been dark since the pandemic shutdown in March except when it was open as a private party venue, with guests bringing in their own chefs.

Owner Boris Gonzalez happily reopened the piano bar to the public last week. The first batch of patrons for opening night were by invitation only. They were the customers who had been calling and “camping out on our doorstep,” noted Gonzalez.

Now that the Havana Nights Piano Bar is open again, the phone has been ringing off the hook as longtime customers make reservations, anxious to get back to their happy place, Gonzalez said.

“The piano bar is open by reservation only with light fare, drinks and music. Little by little, we’ll start adding more fine dining,” he shared. For now, the menu is a little different, with a nice variety of customer favorites.

Havana Nights is open Thursday through Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

The Polo Bistro at Pelican Plaza is now scheduled to reopen Nov. 9th. The fledgling deli and wine shop were open for less than a month before the pandemic shutdown. Owners Kelly Stubbs and John Marx shifted everything over to their Polo Deli location on Flamevine and offered curbside service.

“The deli did really well over the summer, and for now we’re going to continue with curbside service there,” said Marx, noting they’ve worked out all the kinks and customers can be on their way with a delicious sandwich, fresh salad, or bottle of wine in about 10 minutes without having to get out of their cars.

While many customers come in for the array of made-fresh items, Marx says they keep coming back for wine being sold at very attractive prices. “We’re doing quite well in the wine business because our prices are really good. They usually are the same or better than the large so-called discount houses. We handpick only wines that we really like.”

Marx, well-known for his previous ventures with Chelsea’s, the Lemon Tree, Cafe Euro and The Polo Grill, decided last November that he was ready to leave the restaurant business behind and turn his attention to the deli.

His Polo Grill restaurant changed hands over the summer, freeing Marx up to focus on the couple’s newest venture – the Polo Bistro. It offers the same fresh salads, deli sandwiches, more than 200 fine wines and charcuterie-type items as the Polo Deli.

Curbside service will also available at the Bistro, or you can enjoy the covered patio. The Pelican Plaza location is nearly twice as big as the Flamevine deli, ensuring there’s plenty of room for customers to come in and enjoy a glass of wine. Polo Bistro will be open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Island residents have also been anxiously awaiting the reopening of the Village Beach Market, which closed in August for what Jason Keen, store owner, says was a much-needed renovation to update the third-generation grocery.

As the market jumped over one COVID-related hurdle after another, Keen says they’re finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and plan to reopen on Dec. 18.

“The bank was inundated with PPP loan applications, which held up our construction loan for nearly a month,” said Keen. It took the building department twice as much time as Keen had planned for revision approvals.

To add to the problems, equipment has been delayed because manufacturers couldn’t get parts due to shutdowns across the country, and supplies and building materials were held up. Most recently, the county government’s computers were hijacked, halting permitting.

Throughout the entire process, Keen and his team have continued to serve customers via online and phone-in orders, an onsite produce stand, and a food truck serving prepared meals and deli items.

Keen said the warehouse is stocked with most dry goods, grocery items and wine. Customers can place an order online or call, and the staff will pull their orders for pickup or delivery.

“We’ve been part of the community for such a long time. We were really striving to be open for as many as we can as quickly as we can,” said Keen. “We want to simply be better each and every day, and the renovation is a natural course to be better for our customers and our community going forward.”

The Village Beach Market Food Truck is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Produce Stand is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. And Pick-Up or Home Delivery is available Monday through Friday. Orders can be placed by calling the store or via the website, villagebeachmarket.com.

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