MARCO ISLAND — It was a birthday party for a five-year-old, but the guests were doing more than a little drinking.
CJ’s on the Bay celebrated five years on Marco Island on Sunday afternoon, with a party around the outside bar in the courtyard at their Esplanade location on Smokehouse Bay. Curt Koon, the “C” of CJ’s, gleefully poured a five-gallon bucket of ice into the dunk tank above which Nick Catudal sat poised, forgetting perhaps that he was scheduled for his own turn in the “cold seat” later on.
Jacquie Koon (yes, the “J”) said she was holding out for a major donation before she would take the plunge. All the proceeds from the dunk tank, along with the take from the popcorn stand in the courtyard and the “guess how many golf tees” inside the giant wineglass contest went to benefit the American Cancer Society. Dr. Loan Lam, chair of the Marco Island arm of the ACS, looked over the collection of tees, but didn’t make her guess public.
Laura Owen, CJ’s manager and head chef, who has been with the restaurant since its beginning, prepared a number of special food items for the buffet, including pizza burgers, spiral-scored bratwurst, mahi mahi tamales, and a kale salad “Chef Laura” said she was considering adding to the menu on a regular basis.
Guests enjoyed the mild, downpour-less afternoon on the first day of autumn, although a number of patrons chose to enjoy the day from the bar inside, monitoring the third week of the NFL season. While Curt and Jacquie wore teal and orange, respectively, meaning that together they could be seen as sporting the Miami Dolphins colors, she shot that idea down immediately, pointing to the earrings and pendant that proclaimed her a serious New England Patriots fan, even though those northerners were playing, and whupping up on, a Florida team, trouncing the Bucs.
The wait staff turned up in some eyepopping outfits, competing in a costume contest. Joe “Bean” Lento and Jessica Butler wore matching orange and yellow outfits, complete with enormous glasses, although he did not feature a tutu to match her. “Lucky Penny” Snoots was equally outrageous in her garb, with her take on a “birthday suit” looking like New Year’s Eve at the funny farm.
Curt poured a sauvignon blanc at room temperature into the “wine luge” supplied by beverage vendor Southern Wines & Spirits, and seconds later it concluded its journey into the glass below, chilled to drinking temperature. Guests played ringtoss and “ladder golf” in the courtyard, and enjoyed the vocal stylings of singer Jenny Woodman. A magician was scheduled to appear.
Getting serious for a moment, Curt and Jacquie Koon attributed their success to “a lot of time and energy, a great staff, and a very supportive following in the local community,” as Curt put it. Jacquie expressed special thanks to the year ’round residents, saying that is why they were happy to host this party now. “It’s our way to say thank you,” she said.
The other reason was that it was exactly five years ago, on September 22, 2008, that they opened as CJ’s on the Bay, in the space formerly known as Bayview, after purchasing the restaurant the previous March. More events are coming: CJ’s will host “Petoween” for costumed pets the week before Halloween, and on the day itself, Oct. 31, a Halloween party for people.