The Suncoast Post Interview with Sherry Elliott, Owner of 88 Live Piano Bar in Bradenton, Florida
Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sherry Elliott, who is the owner of 88 Live Piano Bar in Bradenton, Florida. She is like the “Energizer Bunny!” She just keeps going and going and going. I hope you enjoy this interview.
Before purchasing 88 Live Piano Bar, what was your professional background or career?
For many years I worked in the marketing department in casinos. Atlantic City, Gulfport, MS and Tunica, MS. After I left the marketing career I moved on to restaurants. I started from the ground up and ended up being an assistant to the General Manager.
Could you tell us about your journey that led you to become the owner of 88 Live Piano Bar?
My good friend Roger Bluhm was working at 88 Live and introduced me to the previous owner, Matt Coates. The rest is history.
What attracted you to the music and entertainment industry, specifically the piano bar concept?
This has been a dream of mine since before I can remember. The piano is an amazing instrument, it brings people together. I thought it would be a great asset to Bradenton.
How has your previous experience influenced your approach to running 88 Live Piano Bar?
Being from a marketing background and restaurant business, it has helped tremendously. I feel like my past careers have definitely made a huge difference and also the team we have. I Literally couldn’t do it without them.
Could you share a bit about your family and how they have supported you in your entrepreneurial ventures?
Besides the fact that they all work here haha, they have always been super supportive. I have to thank them for putting up with me not being home much in the beginning, me on my phone a lot, messy home, and I’m sure they have a list as well. They are amazing. Couldn’t do this without them.
Winning the “Best Music Venue” award in 2022 is a significant accomplishment. What do you believe contributed to this recognition?
Our award goes to not only the venue but most importantly our entertainment, who are the best in town, our staff, who love their jobs and are extremely loyal and our customers, who we love and appreciate immensely.
What sets 88 Live Piano Bar apart from other music venues in the Bradenton area?
What sets us apart from any other music venue is our staff, our décor, and our attention to detail. Our venue is inside so the heat and rain doesn’t deter anyone and of course our amazing entertainers. People come to 88 Live to listen to good music, have good food and make memories.
Can you describe the process of booking entertainment for 88 Live Piano Bar? How do you select performers
We do our due diligence on each band as to what our customer base may prefer, what revenue stream that they may bring, and we travel to see bands and see how they interact with the crowd. Most of the bands that we hire are partners with us, not just hired to play.
In addition to music, what food offerings do you provide at 88 Live Piano Bar? Any specialties or unique menu items?
Our menu has something for everyone. We have appetizers, pizzas, sandwiches, meals for two and constantly run specials. We are known for baking everything, nothing is fried. We also cater to our vegetarians and gluten-free customers.
Are there any unique or signature cocktails or liquor offerings that patrons can enjoy at 88 Live Piano Bar?
We have the best bourbon and tequila selection around. We have specialty drinks that are unique to our venue. We have a frozen daiquiri machine for those hot summer days. Our selection of liquor, beer and wine is extensive. We take pride in great tasting drinks.
What are your future plans for 88 Live Piano Bar? Do you have any expansions or new offerings in mind?
Our future plans are to keep amazing music here in our beautiful venue as long as we can. We have considered expanding and are still entertaining the idea.
How do you engage with the local community and support local musicians or artists?
We have fundraisers on occasion, we love to give back to our community as much as we can. We help local bands book at other venues and private events.
Have you faced any significant challenges while running 88 Live Piano Bar, and how did you overcome them?
Knock on wood, no MAJOR challenges. Let’s pray none come our way.
What role does customer feedback play in shaping the experience at 88 Live Piano Bar? How do you incorporate customer suggestions or ideas?
Our customers play a huge role in shaping 88 Live. A lot of our entertainment ideas have come from them. We listen to everything they say/suggest and take that into consideration. I believe that is how you grow as an establishment.
Are there any particular genres of music or types of performers that you prioritize when booking for 88 Live Piano Bar?
We try to choose bands that meet our customer criteria. We have a huge demographic of people here at 88 Live, and there might be a 21st birthday or an 81st birthday. The weekends tend to be a younger crowd.
How do you create a welcoming and enjoyable atmosphere for your patrons at 88 Live Piano Bar?
Besides the red carpet we roll out, literally, have you met JOHN SMITH?? HE is AMAZING with our customers. We make everyone feel special and welcome. We have people that come every day, once a week or for the first time and they always have a great time.
Can you share any memorable or unique events that have taken place at 88 Live Piano Bar?
We have had fashion shows for a purpose (fundraiser for mental health) we have had many bingo events and family feud events. We just had a special writers circle event. We are having another fashion show event for our local animal rescue shelters on August 27th. We have lots of events for local people that want Christmas parties, bachelor parties, bachelorette parties etc. No party is too big or small. We love helping people and we love it when people make memories here.
Are there any special promotions or themed nights that you regularly offer at 88 Live Piano Bar?
$5 Build your own Bloody Mary bar that is out of this world. Wine Wednesday $12 bottle of wine, ladies night, $5 margaritas / cosmos, happy hour 3-6pm. Dueling pianos every Friday and Saturday. We also have two VIP areas that people enjoy that seats 9-12 people each. They can also open up to one large one. Every night is special. You will definitely go home and remember the fun you had at 88 Live.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to enter the music and entertainment industry?
I would tell them to have patience, don’t give up, be present, get to know your entertainers, customers, and staff, listen to your customers, and always keep an open mind.
Is there anything else you would like to share about 88 Live Piano Bar or your experience as the owner?
I share this role with my husband, Scott Elliott, our daughters and my work husband, John Smith. This is not a job that makes you rich with money, but it does make you rich with the amount of love from the customers and the staff. It makes me so happy to see everyone enjoy our establishment. That is something money can never buy.
Sande Caplin– Sherry, thank you so much for doing this interview. You are truly a blessing to our community.
88 Live Piano Bar
6640 Cortez Road West, Suite A
Bradenton, Florida 34210