88 Live Piano Bar in Bradenton is Celebrating Their One-Year Anniversary
88 Live is celebrating its one-year anniversary this week! Rising out of a shaky beginning at the start of the pandemic, they have become a popular music venue. I talked to partners Sherry Elliott and Matt Coates about their year and what’s coming up in the near future for 88 Live.
SP: Matt, when did you first open 88 Live?
Matt: We opened six weeks before Covid hit, and then we opened and closed twice, and then last year the lovely Sherry came in and helped a lot.
SP: Was it the idea to be a piano bar from the beginning?
Matt: More of the dueling pianos, but we also had mostly piano players when I was able to open and when Sherry came in, we kind of went a little more progressive and had bands during the week and dueling pianos on the weekend.
SP: Tell me about the piano players. Where did you find them? Are they local, or what’s that story?
Matt: Two years ago, 2 1/2 years ago, when I first started, I made phone calls. I’ve been down here for 15 years, and I knew a lot of players. I’m a piano player myself, and I knew a lot of the really good players in our area. I started off with them, through the channels of other piano players, some dueling pianos, and that’s how I met our chief player, his name is Gavin. Gavin and Emily. And they’re called The Unnessentials. I booked them early in the COVID years, and they did great. And then, you know, just through my years of being down here and knowing a lot of the players, I kind of contacted them, and that started it off.
SP: Do you have other piano players that come in also?
Matt: Yeah, but The Unnessential’s are our main dueling pianos, and after that, it’s miscellaneous musicians and dueling piano players from, I’d say, Tampa, Orlando, just too kind of name a few of the cities.
SP: I take it you have a kitchen because I saw that you have a food menu.
Matt: Yeah, sure. Sherry can tell you more about the kitchen. We love our kitchen.
Sherry: OK, everything we have is baked because we have a pizza oven, so we do everything in the oven. Sandwiches, Wings, Chicken. People like the square thin crust pizza. And everybody raves about our wings. We have all kinds of stuff on our menu. We have funny things like the Dueling Meatball Nest and the Sinatra Italian Sub. You know everything is set for pianos and stuff.
SP: How is the business grown over the past year?
Sherry: We started with 500 likes on our Facebook page, and now we’re over 5000. Yeah, it’s grown with the locals. I do advertising & marketing, and it’s just we do everything local through the Islander and on Facebook, Instagram, and word of mouth. It’s just grown, right, Matt.
Matt: Yes, yes, yes, I say because of you. And I’m gonna tell you that again!
SP: So now you have this big celebration on Sunday, May 15th, for the one-year anniversary. What time is that starting? What do you have going on?
Sherry: It starts at 2:00 o’clock. I have our house band Tropix that will lead it off, and then we have Billy Rice coming in. 301 Travelers, and then we end it with N22. Everybody is playing for an hour, and then 22N takes it for the last three hours. It runs from 2 to 8. It’s all bands for this, no pianos.
SP: What are your regular hours?
Sherry: We are closed on Mondays and open Tuesday through Sunday. We’re open from noon until 10:00 o’clock at night. Friday and Saturday – Noon till midnight. Sunday 12 to 10.
SP: You’re open for lunch! What time does music generally start?
Sherry: Yes, we are open for lunch. During the week they start at 7, and the dueling pianos start at 8 on the weekends and then on Sunday music starts at 5.
SP: I see you have events like the Kentucky Derby!
Sherry: Oh yes, that was a huge hit. We have the guys come over from Tampa and do a male revue show on some Sundays. We also have Drag Queen Bingo. It’s on a Sunday. We do it at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. It lasts about maybe two hours. And then actually, on June 12th, right after that, we have the male revue show at 5:00 o’clock, so we have a doubleheader that day, June 12th!
SP: Where are you at this point? You’re celebrating a year, and do you have plans to do other things in the near future?
Matt: Well, I think it isn’t broke right now. I don’t think it needs a whole lot of fixing. I think that we maybe will experiment with different types of music. Actually, right now, we have a pretty good lineup.
Sherry: We are booked out all the way till September. People come when they hear about it when they come to town. It’s just one of those places that people just like to come and celebrate. We have two VIP sections, and they rent them out for parties. Different things, birthdays, and anywhere from 21 years to 91 years. It’s like you stepped into an old club back in the day in New York, Boston, and Chicago. You know, a different vibe. We love the vibe. The vibe at 88 Live.
SP: Thanks so much for your time. Congratulations on your success!
Sherry & Matt: Thank you so much!
88 Live Bradenton
6640 Cortez Road West
Bradenton, FL 34210
Photos from 88Live Website