Jimbo's Place is closing, and a crazy family feud is to blame

Miami reacted with horror last week to news that the end is nigh for Jimbo's, the open-air beer-and-smoked-fish joint that's been Miami's weirdest, most beloved hangout for nearly six decades. But no one has yet told of the Old Testament-style sibling feud — including accusations of drug use, insanity, and theft — that's finally killing the legendary spot.

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon on Virginia Key, the ongoing war is easy to see. Like rival generals in a guerrilla camp, brothers Bobby and Bubba Luznar stew with their allies on opposite sides of Jimbo's Place.

"He just sits there and stares at us," Bobby, a gaunt, sprightly fellow in a baseball cap with a fishing fly attached to it, says of his younger brother. "He won't quit drinking. Every day there's two bottles of tequila in his trash."

Bubba Luznar: "I do like to drink."
Jacob Katel
Bubba Luznar: "I do like to drink."

Location Info

Map

Jimbo's

4201 SE Rickenbacker Causeway
Key Biscayne, FL 33149

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: Key Biscayne

Bobby's right-hand man, Mike Harvison, nods in agreement. He's a burly man in a camouflage bucket hat. "I smoke a little pot," Mike says, "but I've never taken a hit and started beating on somebody or started arguing with myself... and lost the argument!"

The object of their scorn is a placid bearded guy a few hundred feet away, sitting on an overstuffed couch plunked in the dirt. "I do like to drink," admits the extremely Zen Bubba, AKA Jimmy, AKA James Luznar Jr. As if on cue, he swigs from a bottle containing a cocktail of energy drink and tequila. "But he's got a whole lot more problems than I got."

Bubba's sidekick wants to sum up the situation. "Let me put my fucking teeth in," says the man known only as Jamaican Paul, a dude who looks like Willie Nelson in a beret and speaks in an island patois. In plop the dentures. "This is like in the biblical days," JP announces. "It's a feud for the land. Jimbo's was a promised land, a special land. But now it is just another material place."

There is, however, one thing both Bobby and Bubba have in common: a mutual resentment of their sister, Gail Araujo, who is exercising her power of attorney to close the venerable hangout founded 58 years ago by their ailing, 85-year-old father, Jimbo Luznar. "She's trying to pull the plug on it," Bobby snaps, "and it's none of her business."

The three-way family fight spells the end of a storied haute-hobo hideaway, which throughout its existence has successfully stared down municipal foes. Jimbo's Place — along with its lumpy bocce court, collection of impressively lazy dogs, and revolving population of semihomeless squatters — has been an unlikely backdrop for dozens of big-time beachfront productions, from Flipper to 2 Fast 2 Furious. It has won countless Best of Miami awards from this publication, including Best Smoked Fish (a food item that Bubba was arrested for selling without a license last year). And just last September, Esquire named Jimbo's one of the best bars in America.

Jimbo's is a grandfathered barnacle in a protected national park. But last Wednesday, Jimbo agreed to return the land to the City of Miami. Given the old man's contentious history with the city — in 2010 he told a reporter he was keeping the bar open "out of spite" — this latest development is sort of like Mexico gift-wrapping the Alamo to Davy Crockett. "This mess has accomplished what Miami couldn't do for 40 years," opines Susan Cross, a gregarious woman who lives at Jimbo's in a broken-down, junk-strewn yacht. "If anybody's going to screw you, it's going to be family."

Jimbo's Place was founded in 1954 after the city evicted Jimbo Sr.'s shrimp operation from the downtown waterfront property currently home to the Miami Herald. As a consolation prize, he was given a rent-free, lifetime lease on land nobody really wanted — a small patch of stinky, buggy Virginia Key waterfront adjacent to a sewage treatment plant.

City officials probably didn't expect Jimbo to stay half a century. Shrimping became bar-keeping, if that's what you call digging domestic beer from ice coolers. Skyscrapers sprouted along the bay, but Jimbo's vibe was Key West with a healthy splash of Mad Max. As Jamaican Paul likes to say: "Jimbo's is irie."

The trouble began in the mid-'00s, when Jimbo, suffering from chronic neck pain and the onset of Alzheimer's, ceded operations to his son Bubba. According to Bobby, his brother is notorious for drinking too much, snorting starter fluid, and getting into fights. Bubba calmly downplays that characterization: "I think if I drink a little bit of tequila, my mouth gets me in trouble."

Bubba hired as a manager a notorious semihomeless man named Diego. (He has since disappeared and could not be located, so we're not using his last name.) Diego raided the cash registers, say Bubba's siblings, and liked to berate customers and spray them with fire extinguishers. "He busted my head twice," Jamaican Paul recalls. "He had a bit of a drinking problem."

"I was in the process of getting rid of Diego," Bubba insists. Then in December 2009, Bubba's trailer burned down. "There were too many extension cords, and it created a fire," City of Miami project manager Robert Weinreb says. The city shut down Jimbo's electricity until the establishment fixed its fire hazards. It never did.

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14 comments
Billy Bare
Billy Bare

as a 49 year old miami native i must say i have spent many many weekends with my friends at jimbos and never ever had a bad time there! thank you jimbo for all you have done to keep my miami the way it was for so many years... i think i will find some place to have a beer in your honor

Jimbo Slice
Jimbo Slice

Jimbo's was never really open or closed to begin with. It was more like, whenever you showed up, that was when your experience began. As long as people keep going, Jimbo's will always stay open.

Here's a little snippet of it's spirit for those who may never have been. Long live Jimbo's!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

Waisps
Waisps

I've been making Movies there since 1982. Jim's Good People. & a Good Friend. I used to hate beating him playing bocche ball We will All Miss you Jim Thanks for all the Great times & a ton of $$$$ we made Shooting there . Teamsters 390.

The Ghost Of Miami
The Ghost Of Miami

Dear Miami, Jimbo's coulda been saved and with it's apparent passing, one can only get the feeling that more of our once great Real Miami hangouts will disappear as well.Only shells of their past glory, it may be only a matter of time before Tobacco Road and Churchill's will meet the same fate. It is Soooo Miami, that once great institutions and landmarks close that then and only then will people say oh man< i can't believe it's closing.All you have to do is get up off your asses and do something now, before they all go and it's too late. A message not because you needed it.....

Caucasian in The Hood
Caucasian in The Hood

We just met Gail not long ago. She sat down with us and tried to make us feel welcome there, giving us a couple bumper stickers, some can coozies, and talking to us for a bit. Then she lied to our faces about things noone was judging her on in the first place. The brothers were squared off across the property, just like the story says, and the worn-out dude in the beret was pissing and moaning about one thing after another. It was like those people that are left over after an epic party that just don't know when it's time to go. It was sad, and I'm all about partying and drinking and having fun. Shit, I'm coked up now. It sucks that something the father worked at his whole life was destroyed in such a relatively short time by ALL of his undeserving spawn.

Ciminokwf
Ciminokwf

It was that painted, pissed on, mildewed, pressure treated wood Jimbo used in the smoking process that gave his fish that special flavor. My, My!

anon_e_m00se
anon_e_m00se

So... to be sure... the place is now closed? There can be no one last hurrah for all of us there this Sunday?

Art
Art

How stupid could the sister be,they would have made a ton of $$$ if they had one last BLAST!

edithamillan
edithamillan

my best friend's sister made $15064 past month. she is working on the laptop and moved in a $314600 condo. All she did was get lucky and follow the directions shown on this link..MakeCash10.comONLY|||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

edithamillan
edithamillan

my classmate's step-sister brought home $18978 the previous month. she is getting paid on the computer and moved in a $406100 home. All she did was get fortunate and set to work the directions revealed on this web site ...MakeCash10.com

fireboat
fireboat

Some people thought Jimbo's was an eyesore but I for one will miss it. There is no other place in Miami like it. You could walk up in a suit and have a beer and smoked fish along with the local population, no one batted an eye. Even the old mayor of Dade County, Steve Clark used to a regular here.I loved to pull up in my boat, have a beer and fish. It felt like you were a hundred miles from Miami when in fact it was just across the bay. Yeah, it was a dump but it was cool.

Elena S. Davila
Elena S. Davila

Here as a prepare what I thought would be my last picnic at Jimbo's tears fill my eyes for the loss of yet one other wonderful place where old Miami really shines through because of senseless greed.

Sheeeeet
Sheeeeet

Family should be everyone's priority my ass!!!!!!!!!!!!

 
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