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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Downtown bar closes location after decades in business

A bar that featured a wide array of wine and craft beer has closed its location in downtown Ocala after several decades in business.

The Keep Downtown permanently closed its location at 36 SW 1st Avenue in downtown Ocala at the end of July.

Owned by husband and wife Mark Sykuta and Megan Whittaker, the business operated as Ocala Wine Experience for two decades before rebranding itself as The Keep Downtown in 2019. The couple purchased the business in 2016.

“To our loyal patrons and friends: ‘Don’t be sad it’s over. Smile because it happened. – Dr. Seuss,'” reads a post on the company’s website. “Thanks for your support during our 7 years in this space.”

Located just off the main downtown square, The Keep Downtown was known for its gothic style and events and played host to hundreds of networking events over the years. The business offered an extensive list of wines, beers, meads, and other craft brews, as well as small plates, pizzas, and other treats.

Becky Sinn performs at Ocala Wine Experience
Local musician Becky Sinn performs at Ocala Wine Experience

Inspired by a blend of fantasy and pop culture from their favorite books, movies, music and television shows, the husband and wife put their own stamp on the downtown Ocala bar.

Visitors to The Keep would encounter a change of pace from other bars in downtown Ocala, as the business would stream music videos from the 80s while hosting acoustic jam sessions, karaoke nights, and trivia in the upstairs bistro.

The business hosted monthly wine tastings and was a regular meetup location for networking groups, including the Young Professionals of Ocala.

The wine lineup during a recent wine tasting at The Keep Downtown
The wine lineup during a wine tasting at The Keep Downtown

The bar’s closure joins an ever-changing landscape in downtown Ocala.

Last month, Katya Vineyards announced that it was temporarily closed while the owners tended to family matters. The company has since updated its website to reflect that it is temporarily closed “due to renovation.”

Earlier this summer, District Bar and Kitchen opened a new location right next door to The Keep.