By: Katie Garwood
Childhood friends Don Morris and John Lombardi have been talking about opening a restaurant together for decades.
This could be the year as they prepare to open Firefly Bay in the former North Beach Bistro space at 725 Atlantic Blvd. in Atlantic Beach.
Morris and Lombardi will serve contemporary American cuisine in an upscale, casual setting. They also plan to have live music four to five nights a week, featuring rock and country on weekends and an “eclectic” mix the rest of the week.
“We had been discussing going in together as a partnership to do something and we started looking around a lot of different locations in Florida,” Morris said.
“We came across Atlantic Beach, we loved the area, we stayed here for a few days and grew to like it.”
He said it could be about four months before the restaurant is ready to open. They estimated an investment of $500,000.
Menu items include a cast iron rib-eye steak, truffle mac and cheese, seared sea scallops, voodoo chicken pasta, caprese avocado toast, charred Brussels sprouts, ahi island tuna and stacked wings.
Morris said they plan to add another full bar and remove a wall so that every table can see the performing stage. They also will improve the patio space.
They plan to hire about 50 employees.
“That is the beauty of this project for us,” Lombardi said. “To be able to come here and join the community and to hire members of the community, that’s a thrill.”
Strategic Sites Clifford Commercial Senior Broker Patricia Owings represented the landlord in the lease. Strategic Sites’ David Laurie represented Morris and Lombardi.
Morris has been in the restaurant industry for 30 years, most recently the general manager for the House of Blues in San Diego. Before that, he managed the Hard Rock Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Lombardi owned a law practice in New York City. Morris is teaching him about the restaurant industry.
Lombardi, 56, and Morris, 55, moved to Jacksonville several weeks ago to start work on the restaurant.
Morris came from California and Lombardi moved from New York.
The two went to kindergarten through 12th grade together in Westchester County, New York.
“Don is the brains in the operation,” Lombardi said.
“He’s taught me a lot. I have a lot of faith in him, his work ethic, his vision. With our years of personal history together, it makes it special.”