Portland History

The Key Largo Restaurant & Bar, 1979

I have a pretty strict policy of not using found photos or postcards that might identify someone. So, usually no photos with people. I’m not surprised when I get an email from a sibling, son, daughter, wife or husband identifying their loved one in a photo. That makes me, well, uncomfortable.

For this post though, all bets are off.

I nabbed the below photo from The First Portland Catalogue from 1979.

And man, it’s a fantastic representation of an era and the year 1979. Wicker, pina coladas, Rupert Holmes, wine, and no AIDS. [Your parents weren’t listening to new wave or punk rock in 1979. They dug The Eagles, Bread, white wine and dynamite weed. They are lying if they tell you otherwise.]

From the copy, with addendum:

Key Largo’s atmosphere suggests tropical breezes [cheap coke] and romance [unprotected sex] in the presence of palms, parrots, piano and Pina Coladas. [We promise your mellow won’t be harshed.]

Located at 31 NW First Avenue and now houses the Ohm Night Club. Seriously.

Click on the image for larger version:

Hey Regal Beagle. The Key Largo drinks your milkshake.

42 replies on “The Key Largo Restaurant & Bar, 1979”

Body suits, wrap-around skirts, and a Farrah-inspired hairstyle too. All of this is why punk rock got invented.

I used to go to Key Largo, in the late 90’s when Curtis Salgado played there regularly. I was sad when it closed – it had turned into a good place to see local & national blues bands.

I didn’t know about Key Largo’s early history tho – it’s fun to see the picture!

Spent many nights there through college years at U of P…we’d carpool/bus it down for killer drinks and music.I worked next door at Fingers restaurant and at Tuxedo Charlies when it first opened in the New Market Theatre Annex.Wild times!

Somebody who remembers please name the place that was underground on SW Washington near 5th at which Salgado, Cray, DeLay, Terry Robb, etc, etc, played and played and played. Cheap rum and cokes and dance, dance, dance.

…also that place on the top floor of that building that had the 931. You had to ride the freight elevator up and down. Not sure why that building hasn’t fallen down yet. Thought it was barely standing up then.

This is sad to hear that key largos closed. I haven’t been there since 1988-89 and my favorite bands were COOL’R and DAN REED. I miss those days, never heard bands like them yet.

Cool parents really were listening to (punk rock) The Sex Pistols, The Damned and The Clash (just to name a few) in 1979!

Signing in from NW Illinois, where I now live (grew up in PDX, and feeling super homesick since finding your neat site, btw- and I’ve only been gone less an 20 years)

Key Largo=Crazy8s for me and friends in the mid-80s

Nervous In Suberbia, bro!

I worked at Key Largo – 88-89 (ish). Wild times as I recall. Someone mentioned the Crazy 8’s – always packed the place.

How nice. I cooked at Key Largo for a couple of years. Really liked that job and the people I worked with. A really cool sign.

Hello, I’m doing research for a book about the rock band Oingo Boingo. I recently came across an newspaper advertisement for the Key Largo restaurant just a week after they opened in October of 1978. The ad states “(serving lunch, dinner & imported oingo boingo)”.

Back in 1978 Oingo Boingo was performing under the name The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, so it is strange they would have shortened the band’s name on their own. It is also very unlikely that these two otherwise meaningless words could have been used coincidentally to describe the restaurant’s atmosphere.

As a dinner theater cabaret show I suspect the band was performing at the restaurant as they were also in the San Francisco area during this same time in late October and early November 1978. If anyone has any information that can clear up this mystery for me I would greatly appreciate any help you could offer.


OK< there was no live music there for at least the first couple years (till well after 1980 I'm pretty sure) except for once, our bar manager Carl Smith with the Natural Gas played one weekend in '78 sometime.

Working in the kitchen for their very first year there, I recall that note on the menu, and it didn’t refer to the band.

Thanks for the info David. Do you happen to know what it did refer to? My guess is the owner maybe saw the band perform in San Francisco and thought the name was funny or something but I still don’t know what he was describing with its use.

Thanks again for your help.

Key largo was owned by Tom Nash, who made his fortune selling vitamin supplements and spent most of his time living where the sun shone more than once a week. He left the daily operation to the club’s manager, Clay Fuller, who started booking music full time at the club in 1983. The music scene there came into its own with the arrival of new manager and eventual owner Tony DeMicoli in late ’84. The sound system at the club was leased from my company, Concert Audio (later Club Sound Systems,) and I was there pretty much daily from the mid 80’s until 1993, when I sold my interest in the PA to my former partner Tom Robinson. Oingo Boingo did NOT perform there, but they did appear at Tony’s Luis’ La Bamba Club in 1982.

Dub Squad every Thursday evening in the early 90’s….. Also, the great Al Stewart w/original guitarist Peter White (I sat in a folding chair with my feet reclining on the front of the very low stage, directly in front of Al’s mic!)

Given that Key Largo didn’t open until 1978, one would have to agree that the regular booking of live acts wouldn’t have really begun, in earnest, until 1980, at the earliest, no?

There were some steel bands and salsa groups that played there sporadically from the start, but a stage wasn’t built until around 84,
and a permanent sound system was put in about a year later.

Odd footnote, the Key Largo stage was built by Clamtones frontman Jeff Fredricks. Maybe that’s why it vibrated sympathetically in the key of E…

Does anyone know the venues where live music, with a female singer, might have been performed in the summer of 1979? My mother was a singer in “The Keys” (not Key West though) and I’m looking to research the area and times. I don’t know the name of the band or anything really just the time period. Thank you so much for any insight you have into that time and place.

Daw maybe 15-20 concerts arlt Key Largo late 80’s through 90’s. The ones that standout,
Tragically Hip x 2
Blue Rodeo x 2
David Bromberg
Crazy 8’s
Loudon Wainwright III

I recall at one of the Blue Rodeo shows Sarah McLachlan walked in after her show across town and joined her friends with “Old 55”. Also recall an album hanging on the wall from the band Zephyr with palm trees and an old Bogart eta airplane. Miss Key Largo.

Hi Key Largo fans!!
I used to go there a bunch in the 80’s I loved the vibe.
Does anyone have an idea who painted the gigantic painting that was on the wall of a tropical scene with a woman in it? I would love to know the artist’s name.

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