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About 15 years ago, native Ohioan Dave Hall — who said he came to Florida on spring break from Akron University and never went back home — was serving drinks to two of his regular customers at a bar in Islamorada in the Florida Keys.
The regular customers were Debra Malone and her husband, who has since passed away. They said, hey why don’t you come up to Melbourne and run a restaurant with us? He did. And, so was the start of a partnership that is about to open its third restaurant
They bought Bunky’s Raw Bar in 2007 but sold it (for an offer they couldn’t refuse, he said) and opened the Monkey Bar right next to it in 2011. Ever since then, Hall said, they have been looking for a perfect place for a second restaurant.
That’s when they found the little house — believed to be a 1923 Sears kit house — across from the Heneger Center for the Arts in downtown Melbourne.
They named it after Alligator Reef, a coral reef located off Islamorada, a village encompassing six of the Florida Keys that are known for their coral reefs. Alligator Reef lies within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
Alligator Reef Bar and Grille will bring the Key West vibe — along with the name — to the place.
It will have a large covered patio and acoustic Key West-style music. Despite the rather small size of the place — about 900 sq. ft. — Hall said they will serve all kinds of food, including lots of fresh seafood like ceviche and hog snapper tacos. They plan to open in February.
By the way, Alligator Reef was named after the U.S. Navy schooner “Alligator,” which went aground in that location in 1822. Alligator was part of the U. S. Navy Anti-Piracy Squadron that had recently been established in Key West. The Alligator was stripped of useful items and blown up after it went aground — to prevent it from being used by the same pirates it had been trying to capture. The reef is so jagged that many boats have sunk there, making it a paradise for divers.