Grand Central Miami's Brian Basti and Megan Laich Launch New Bar, Piano Hollywood at Hard Rock Casino

Remember when it was all about dueling pianos? The excitement, the entertainment, the audience participation -- the seniors shuffling and frat guys moshing their way up the front to deposit their song requests and scanty tips!

That ship has sailed, and when it did, so did 88's Dueling Piano's at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. What did they get to fill the gaping void left in its place?

The new venue, Piano Hollywood, has been taken over by by Miami nightlife veterans Brian Basti and Megan Laich. Together they form the bar consulting and cocktail catering business Crown Concepts, and Basti is a partner with Aramis Lorie at Grand Central Miami.

The bar will have its "reinvented grand opening" as an "intimate music venue and artisanal cocktail lounge based around the piano" Thursday at 8 p.m. We're dying to see what these party starters are going to bring north to the Hard Rock.

They've spent a combined 30 years building up Miami's budding underground and indie scene, working alongside Poplife -- which was founded by Basti's sister Barbie and Lorie. Basti calls that collaborative superteam "my business partners and some of my best friends." He adds that they'll be helping with some of the marketing and booking of this project. "We will be working with Poplfe along the way."

With well-known Dade County venues like high-energy Grand Central, pizza spot Ecco, and the always classic PS14 under their belt, you best believe these guys know a thing or two when it comes to nightlife.

There's no surprise, then, why the owner brought them in as Crown Concepts to handle all aspects of the new venue, from cocktail creation, staffing, and operations to booking and marketing.

"I was a bit skeptical at first," says Basti of the location, a popular nightlife destination for tourists and locals alike. "We have always had live music venues, but they were geared around a heavier sound, and we always worked with DJs. At Piano, we will not have any DJs, and all the music will be acoustic." The venue is around 2,500 square feet, with a beautiful bar in one corner, an antique piano in the other, and about 100 seats (tables and chairs) spread throughout the venue. There are also 20 additional seats outside for people to enjoy the weather and smoke. Unlike many of the other venues at the Hard Rock, the inside will be smoke free.

"It's set up as an intimate piano bar that can and will hold small acoustic acts," Basti says. Managed by Brendan O'Hara and Ingrid Brazin of BSide entertainment, both veterans of the Miami music and performance scene, the music programming will include jazz, blues, spoken word, and soul, with the occasional piano singalong.

The craft beer and cocktail menu will also help set Piano Hollywood apart. Under the direction of Laich, the cocktail program will include all fresh, locally sourced ingredients, with new unique drink offerings rotating monthly.

Thursday's grand opening will feature performances by Brendan O'Hara, with Hal Roland on the keys playing classic piano tunes and Anomaly performing spoken word poetry. Fresh cocktails, craft beer, and a selection of small bites will be served throughout the night.

Ongoing, Piano Hollywood will be open Tuesday to Saturday throughout the Summer, with live music every night from 7 p.m. In the Fall, they'll expand to seven days a week, and introduce happy hours and brunches.

While new ventures tend to fall flat, Piano Hollywood seems destined for a bright future. "The first night of the soft opening when the piano player started to jam, I thought, 'Wow, this is going to be so cool!'" Basti gushes. "Then, when the cocktail menu was finished and we made our choices in the craft beers that we are going to carry, it really hit me how cool we can make this place and what we are bringing to Hard Rock. I wish I had one in Miami!"

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