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Casual restaurant to open on Longboat Key in October

Lo’ Key Island Grille will emphasize a laid-back atmosphere with a sizable outdoor space while serving fresh seafood.

Lo' Key Island Grille is expected to wrap up construction this summer and open its doors in October.
Lo' Key Island Grille is expected to wrap up construction this summer and open its doors in October.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer
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Lo’ Key Island Grille is coming soon, and Courtney Rossler, one of the owners, is looking forward to having a place of her own on Longboat Key.

Located at 5620 Gulf of Mexico Drive on the corner of Tarawitt Drive, the restaurant will give residents another dining option on Longboat Key, where there already exists a handful of well-established restaurants, Rossler said. 

At Lo’ Key, Rossler said the atmosphere will be unique, offering a casual dining atmosphere where someone can also enjoy a local, fresh snapper meal. 

But first she’ll need to bring some new life to the building, starting with an almost total reconstruction which kicked off at the start of March. Construction and acquisition of a certificate of occupancy should be complete around August.

The restaurant’s opening is planned for around October this year, according to Rossler.

Holliday Construction Group is the general contractor for the restaurant and has been a great partner so far, Rossler said. 

There are a lot of necessities, like putting on a new, hurricane-grade roof and raising the ceilings for a more open feel. 

Still, she said when thinking about the reconstruction the goal was to fit in with Longboat Key. The flooring — a type that gives an “Old Florida” feel — is about the only remaining aspect of the old building, which was built in 1952. 

Crews with Holliday Construction Group work on the main restaurant space, which needed to be almost completely redone.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer

Rossler’s business partner, Kevin Pass, bought the lot that will be Lo’ Key in May 2022 for $1.8 million. Before that, the pair were renting the front portion of the lot but later decided that the back half of the lot would be a more ideal location for a restaurant. 

Lo’ Key will be 4,253 square feet with indoor space and patio seating totaling over 80 seats. 

Behind the restaurant is a grassy lot that leads to a canal in the back. The grassy lot will be converted into parking, which will allow for about 36 parking spaces, according to Rossler. 

When Lo’ Key opens, Rossler said it will focus on dinner service, with proposed hours from 3-10 p.m. with a daily happy hour. The plan is to bring in lunch service seasonally. She hopes to also incorporate live music when possible. 

Rossler has already hired a chef, and the two are collaborating on a menu. Although she didn’t want to give away too many details, she said there would be an emphasis on seafood, as local as possible. 

Lo’ Key also has a full liquor license, and Rossler said she hopes the bar will be a place where people can get together to watch sports. Floor-to-ceiling doors will lead from the bar to the outdoor space to create an open concept. 

In early 2022, the original plan for Lo’ Key to be a Tiki bar was shot down by the Planning and Zoning Board. Rossler said those plans have been shelved, and she is now looking forward to the day when she can open the doors of Lo’ Key, now a more “quaint” spot. 

“It’s finally coming to fruition,” Rossler said. “I’m really happy for the day that we can open our doors and welcome people in and give them an awesome experience.” 

Key connections 

Rossler, a native Sarasota resident, said she’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit. 

She also is no stranger to Longboat Key. Her most recent position was with the Lazy Lobster, where she worked for 13 years.

“I can credit getting to this point to my mentor, Michael Garey,” Rossler said. “He basically gave me every opportunity within his establishment to take the experience I had and fine tune it. … He was a wealth of information and knowledge.”

She started as a server until one day owner Garey put her behind the bar, she said. By the time she parted ways with the Lazy Lobster, she was the head bartender. 

Garey called Rossler a tremendous worker with a remarkable personality.

"Courtney is in a handful of the best people that have worked for me," Garey said.

He said Rossler prepared for this opportunity for a long time and he is excited for her taking on this venture. Garey is confident Rossler will be successful with Lo' Key. 

“I’m really excited to take what I have learned and put my own spin on things and offer something slightly different but still needed,” Rossler said.

Rossler said the experience she had at Lazy Lobster is what really prepared her to take on this new venture. 

The relationships she created while working with the Lazy Lobster will be a valuable resource when starting her own restaurant. 

“I don’t feel like I’m doing this alone,” Rossler said. “I feel like I have the support of this entire island. And so it’s very personal to me.” 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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