The Aquaplex (formerly known as the Aqua Bar and Nightclub), located at 711 Duval St. in the heart of Key West’s LGBTQ entertainment district, has just debuted its new look and enhancements after four months of upgrades. Along with the addition of an on-site Hawaiian-themed restaurant in its open-air backside bar and patio area, it now has five unique venues to delight patrons.
I recently took a tour of the Aquaplex with the owner and GM, Michael Ingram, to check out the new improvements and enhancements. As well as being a club owner, Michael is an architect and former LGBTQ Key West guesthouse owner.
In September 2013, Michael purchased the Aqua Nightclub, known for its hilarious nightly “Reality is a Drag” shows. Recent post-COVID additions include a more powerful A/C system to increase airflow and high-tech lighting and sound systems to showcase the talented team of drag-ertainers, the Aquanettes. (FYI, showtimes are 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday. Reservations can now be made in advance on the newly upgraded website.)
“Aquaplex improvements are our answer to current constraints and the resulting opportunities to freshen our environment,” Michael explained. “By upgrading our patrons’ experience in a variety of new and enhanced venues, we will continue to provide the finest entertainment complex in the Keys.”
Situated in a building just behind the Aqua club is the SideBar, which was transformed from an old industrial building into a world-class dance club. The indoor vibe, which might be described as an industrial-goes-modern design, truly illustrates Michael’s creative style and architectural flair.
With the removal of a few walls, the previous banquet space is now incorporated into the existing dance floor and has DOUBLED it in size — so patrons can now dance and social distance to their heart’s desire.
The SideBar connects all five venues of the Aquaplex, including the lovely outdoor garden bar called the Back Bar and the Poké in the Rear restaurant, where people can enjoy a tasty meal and libation under the stars. Also connected (and a new addition to the Aquaplex family) is the 22&CO bar known for its tutu-wearing clientele, neon flamingo décor, and ah-mazing glittering cocktails.
The aptly named Poké in the Rear is the Plex’s backyard outdoor eatery, offering lunch and dinner along with a full bar from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. seven days a week. The restaurant’s poké bowls and sake selections have become a huge hit with locals and visitors alike.
On my recent visit, I was able to sample (thank you, Michael!) some of Chef Grant and Alex’s mouthwatering creations named after some of the Aquaplex’s famed drag queens. My new favorite “go to” dishes are definitely The Beatrix and The Maya.
In addition, I think one of the recent specials, the sous vide short ribs with a scallion teriyaki glaze, may become a regular menu item by popular demand (it’s melt-in-your-mouth delicious). If diners still have room after the main course, the tropical rum cake MUST be tried — oh my!
Also, please don’t forget to check out the complex’s special event webpages before visiting, to find items like the very popular monthly Hawaiian Luau at Poké, Aqua SideBar’s ThursGays variety shows and happy-hour live music.
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