Celebrating CJ’s: Waterfront eatery to mark 10 years with a big party, and you’re invited
The “Heart of the Rock” is rolling on. CJ’s on the Bay, the waterfront eatery with the outside bar at the Esplanade, will celebrate a decade on Marco Island with a party on Saturday. They will offer a buffet, featuring “bone-in” ribeye steak on the grill, and “real Key West pinks” – local shrimp that are debuting on the restaurant’s regular menu, said Laura Owen, CJ’s general manager.
CJ’s will put out the food items without charge, and guests are encouraged to make a donation that will go to the Friends of Rookery Bay, the environmental group the restaurant is partnering with for the day’s fundraising. Live music will come from Jeff Hilt, followed by Jenny Woodman.
“This is all about us saying ‘thank you,’ and giving back,” said Jacquie Koon. She and her husband Curt are the “C and J” of CJ’s. Along with thanking their staff, many of them longtime employees, she thanked the Marco community.
“We were welcomed to the island immediately and invited to participate in key groups such as the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce and the police foundation.” Jacquie is a board member and past president of the Chamber, and Curt is a board member and past president of the Marco Police Foundation.
The Koons purchased what was then Bayview Restaurant on Feb. 28, 2008, but at first made few changes. Sept. 22 is 10 years from the day the establishment put up their new sign and changed the name to CJ’s on the Bay. The name was chosen after holding a contest with hundreds of ideas submitted.
In addition to the music and buffet, there will be drink specials, early and late 50/50 raffles, beer sampling, giveaways including T-shirts, gift baskets, a dartboard and a rolling cooler, many of them courtesy of the restaurant’s beverage purveyors, and games including cornhole and “CJ’s Bingo.”
CJ’s regularly hosts and participates in community events, including the Taste of Marco, Mutts & Martinis, Business After Five, the Souper Bowl on Marco and the Naples Empty Bowls fundraiser and the Christmas Island Style Pet Parade.
Curt and Jacquie said they have lost track of how many altogether – but they did have a tally on just how much of various menu items they have served over the years. For Bud Light Draft alone, the tally is 100,598, which Owen did some quick math and said comes to over 12,000 gallons. Along with almost 108,000 glasses of house chardonnay and over 104,000 CJ’s Margaritas, they have sold 799 “Marco Strong” drinks since Hurricane Irma, with a portion of proceeds going to local relief organizations.
In their 10 years of operation, CJ’s has sold 48,639 servings of calamari, which equates, she said, to 12 and a half tons of squid. There were 39,800 orders of stone crabs, 28,756 plates of coconut shrimp, and 54,900 “catch of the day,” a particularly tasty fish. It makes sense for an establishment selling this much seafood to take an interest in keeping our waterways healthy.
At the five-year birthday party in 2013, they raised over $1,000, which went to the American Cancer Society, and are hoping to double that take this year, said Owen. She was headed to the Keys last weekend to participate in a lionfish roundup, where she was entering a lionfish filet with salsa verde, taken from the lionfish cookbook published by reef.org.