Still Hazy After All These Years

A decade of daiquiri-induced hangovers hasn't dulled Wet Willie's puerile appeal

According to its detractors, a joint like Wet Willie's belonged on beer-soaked Duval Street in Key West, not in the heart of the new American Riviera. It represented a crass dumbing-down of this hip place called SoBe. In large part the critics had it right: Wet Willie's made Ocean Drive safe for the masses. And before long those masses descended in hordes, bringing with them behemoth tour buses, T-shirt shops, and TGI Friday's.

Today Wet Willie's stands as a proletarian beacon, attracting so much of Middle America that even the balcony sometimes has the feel of a sidewalk café -- packed with pedestrian traffic, especially after the sun goes down. The ambiance, as the night wears on, is distinctly meat-market, like a boardwalk bar in Ocean City, Anywhere.

While the open area downstairs stays busy, the balcony is the place to be. In the darkness it's harder to glimpse the beach, but Ocean Drive comes into full flower, the chromed-out Cadillacs and hopped-up motorcycles cruising by, narrowly avoiding collisions at the hectic intersection. After a couple of sixteen-ounce Attitude Adjustments, the visual and audible chaos mellows into a pleasant mélange of South Florida sleaze and faded glamour. "Yeah, it's crazy at night. A little crowded, but it's good," says Bobby B. "Overall it's probably one of the only neighborhood-type places left on Ocean Drive, you know?"

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