“By Heather C. McCalla | South Florida Sun-Sentinel August 3, 2007
When they win, we swim." That's the motto of the Gator Cannonball Club, housed by the Old Key Lime House in Lantana, a waterfront bar that invites 20 University of Florida fanatics to cannonball off their dock into the Intracoastal Waterway. The reward? Free drinks the entire day, and $1 Jell-O shots and $1 Budweiser and $1 Bud Light drafts for all patrons. When the Gators aren't playing, the joint shows Saturday Night Live commercial parodies on its outdoor projection screen. There's live entertainment five nights a week, and Thursday's Reggae Night — the busiest night — hosts troubadours Ellis Island. A bartender by day and server at night, Hannah McKinney of Lantana was in high spirits during our visit. The tall blonde says she rarely partakes of the bar scene but made an exception for her 22nd birthday. Her love for reggae and the reputation of Old Key Lime House made this place a perfect spot for her and friends to celebrate. "Everyone knows this is the Thursday night spot. It's reggae night, and everyone goes to the Old Key Lime House," McKinney says very matter-of-factly. Someone high-fives her and two guys yell, "Happy birthday." Friends? "I don't know them, but I'm making sure everyone knows it's my birthday," McKinney says, turning to face random strangers: "Hey! It's my birthday!" McKinney is right. Thursday night at the Old Key Lime House is packed, filled with an energy reminiscent of a fraternity house party meets the Florida Keys. Even at its busiest, there's enough space on its massive dock and wooden outdoor bar to prevent the sardine effect. You won't see any suits here. Patrons show up in shorts and T-shirts, looking more like they rolled out of bed than looking to score. And the employees are just as casual, with a bouncer wearing a cowboy hat and overalls (a look not to be duplicated, ever) and a bartender donning a shirt that says, "Save a horse. Ride a tractor." Breaking from Wall Street for a visit to his secondary home in Royal Palm Beach, stockbroker Bryan Bocassi of Long Island embraces the bar's vacation vibe. The boyishly good-looking Bocassi sits against a wooden railing with friend Joe Dervuo (also of Long Island) comparing the place to New York bars. Of course, the debate turns to South Florida women vs. New York ones. "This place reminds me of the restaurant in Goodfellas," Dervuo says, Noo-Yawk style. "You don't come here for the crowd or people: You come here for the atmosphere." "There's no place on Long Island with this atmosphere; not even in the city," Bocassi says. "I think women in Florida are friendlier than New York women." Both agree the accent "goes a long way" in South Florida. Old Key Lime House daily serves seafood and other items at 11:30 a.m. and happy hour from 4-6 p.m.
Heather C. McCalla can be reached at hcmccalla@ sun-sentinel.com.
Old Key Lime House 300 E. Ocean Ave. Lantana
- Heather C. McCalla