A Middle Keys institution that has been closed for eight years quietly reopened Tuesday, and it's a far cry from what many used to call a dive -- a dive where everyone felt comfortable.
The Overseas Pub & Grill at 3574 Overseas Highway bayside, which hasn't seen a drink poured or meal made since 2008, has been reborn under the ownership of Tim O'Connell, who bought the property in 2013. Since then, anyone passing by could see the constant work put into it, from the restored historic sign to a fresh tropical coat of paint to the addition of an outside deck and bar.
"We're trying to make this a destination, not just a bar," O'Connell said of the 7,800-square-foot place.
Indeed, in addition to serving food and drinks and the standard juke box, pool table and large-scale photos of Keys characters and great fish catches, O'Connell plans to add an ice-cream stand outside. And on weekends, up to 20 artists at a time will be set up in the back under tents creating and selling their works.
"Kind of like the Rain Barrel" in Islamorada, he said.
The Overseas first opened in 1937.
O'Connell and his accountant wife Kathleen bought it from the Ardolino estate, which in 2008 called in a balloon payment from owners Roy and Beverly Dickens. They couldn't pay so the estate took over ownership. Since then, the estate has been in various court battles over various issues, but O'Connell isn't party to any of them.
He said the menu early on will be basic "comfort food" like burgers and steak but will expand. The specialty, already being served, is roasted chicken, cooked in a pressure cooker. You can add waffles.
"This is the most delicious chicken you've ever had," O'Connell said.
He says the Overseas will employ 40 to 45 people, from cooks to wait staff to maintenance.
The O'Connells moved here in 2000 from Buffalo, N.Y., where they still have a trucking and transportation business.