Woody’s is now branding itself as a live music venue that hosts Floridian bands such as Majesty of Rock, a Journey and Styx tribute band that performed there on Sept 9, seen here.

It’s been two months since legendary all-nude strip joint Woody’s Adult Entertainment Club was reopened under new ownership with a mainstream makeover. The stripper pole has been removed, and a pool table now (literally) stands in its place; the hot blonde on the bar’s iconic billboard on Overseas Highway has been traded in for a cartoonish tiki statue; and the name is more family-friendly: Woody’s Nightclub.

And, during a visit by Keys Weekly on a recent Saturday night, locals told us that they loved Woody’s 2.0 — and that they would be coming back.

The closing of the strip club, which was bought by a Michigan company called Old Salt for almost $2 million on July 6, caused howls of dismay on local Facebook groups, with commenters saying it was “the end of an era” in the Florida Keys. On the venue’s last night, a line of customers wrapped around the building.

With the bar three customers deep, the staff were kept busy. CHARLOTTE TWINE/Keys Weekly

But on the evening of our visit, the crowd was three deep at the bar, while audience members were pumping their fists and bopping their heads to the evening entertainment: a Journey and Styx tribute band called Majesty of Rock. 

Yet, as Journey lead singer Steve Perry sang, “The wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’…” And that’s just fine for a group of locals playing pool.

The posse of young men wearing shorts and baseball hats stood holding their pool cues and drank beer as the band performed. One of the men said he grew up in the Keys and had enjoyed the strip joint back in the day, but he was happy with the new version of Woody’s. 

“Don’t get me wrong, every town needs a strip club. But this is the best possible outcome. I mean, look,” he said, sweeping his arm toward the crowd at the bar. “There are just as many people here as before. My dad would definitely come out for a band that sounds like Journey. The older generation needs a place like this. They’re not gonna go to The Whistle Stop.” 

Locals may also be happy to know that Jason Jarocki is still managing the club. He has worked for Woody’s for three-and-a-half years and developed a loyal following of customers; the new owners saw this and specifically asked for him to stay. Jarocki has years of experience in hospitality and night clubs, having owned a restaurant in Palm Beach and strip clubs in New York. 

Manager Jason Jarocki has worked at Woody’s for three-and-a-half years and says he is going to bring the club ‘to the next level.’ CHARLOTTE TWINE/Keys Weekly

But he has a place in his heart for Woody’s, and he is using all his nightclub know-how to transform the business into a successful live music venue that hosts Florida rock and country bands and Wednesday karaoke nights. 

“We’re trying to do everything top-notch and bring it to another level,” he said. “We’re the only local venue with live music indoors. Keys venues tend to be at the beach or dockside, and you have to deal with bugs and heat. Here, they can come nicely dressed and enjoy air-conditioning.”

As we stood by the bar, a couple — a young blonde woman with an older man — entered the front door. They walked toward the old stripper pole location — then looked around quizzically, their eyebrows raised in confusion.

“People still think the strippers are here,” admitted Jarocki. “It’s nonstop. Ninety percent of the customers are looking for the old Woody’s, while 10 percent are looking for the band.” 

But, he says, the future is bright. “I would love to see the place take off,” he said.

One female customer sitting at the bar agreed. “I feel comfortable coming here now,” she said, taking a sip from her cocktail and looking over at where the pole used to be. “I’ll definitely be hanging out here more often.”

Happy hours at Woody’s are Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. and offer two-for-one beer, wine and well drinks. Classic bar food includes pizza, chicken wings, mozz sticks and jalapeno peppers. The venue is located at 81908 Overseas Highway, bayside, and open Wednesday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to 4 a.m. For more information, call 305-664-4335 or go to @Woody’s Nightclub on Facebook.

Charlotte Twine fled her New York City corporate publishing life and happily moved to the Keys six years ago. She has written for Travel + Leisure, Allure, and Offshore magazines; Elle.com; and the Florida Keys Free Press. She loves her two elderly Pomeranians, writing stories that uplift and inspire, making children laugh, the color pink, tattoos, Johnny Cash, and her husband. Though not necessarily in that order.