Ten of Miami's Oldest Bars
You can tell a lot about a city by its bar scene.
Just take a look at Miami. The Magic City may be home to some of the flashiest uhntz-uhntz powerhouses in the country, but the 305 wouldn't be the nightlife mecca of the south if it wasn't for the vision set by our thirsty founding fathers and their love of beer.
In honor of our hardcore party rep, here are ten of Miami's oldest bars that have kept their doors open throughout the years, dating from the 1980s and beyond.
Via Google Maps
10. Nite Cap Lounge
Nite Cap is your typical neighborhood dive bar ... Except more patriotic than anything you'll ever see in Miami and over 30 years old. Cookie McAlpine and her husband have called the bar their own for the past 22 years, but the original owners, a husband and wife, are the ones responsible for instilling that quirky vibe. Back in the day, the wife and musician of the family would play the organ that was up on the stage. But the most unique detail about Nite Cap lies right above you: the ceiling. You'll spend hours trying to read each commemorative tile that pays tribute to loved ones and pets who have died, businesses that have closed their doors for good, and cars that have been wrecked. Sure, you'll spot some squares that seem like they've been sitting there for decades, but that's just how old Nite Cap is.
The shuffle board at Round Table.
Photo by Laurie Charles
Bar goers have been drinking like royalty at Round Table Sports Bar for over 30 years. From the outside, the Liberty City drinking den looks like some sort of castle structure reminiscent of King Arthur and his knights, but once you get buzzed in, you'll discover a collection of vintage photographs, neon-lit Miami Dolphins and University of Miami signage, a red NASCAR, and one of the oldest shuffle boards in the 305. Although Round Table has been around for over three decades, the building has been used as a bar for more than a half-century. Located in one of the roughest parts of town, Round Table has witnessed its fair share of drama throughout the years, but one of the most interesting tidbits about the bar are the people who've drank there, most notably drug kingpin Mickey Munday AKA the "last surviving Cocaine Cowboy."
Miami New Times photo archive
Since the beginning of time, Churchill's Pub has been a haven for Miami's punk rockers. Before making its permanent home at 5501 NE 2nd Avenue, Dave Daniels' Churchill's Pub, or Sir Winston Churchill's Pub as it was known in 1979, was located at 35 NW 54th Street. After the McDuffie riots of 1980, however, Daniels moved his bar just a few blocks up. Along with the physical move of the watering hole, came the rock 'n' roll and punk phenomenon in the 305. A lot has changed throughout the years, including the evolution of the neighborhood and a recent swap in ownership, but throughout its 35 years, Churchill's has hosted some of the most talented head bangers in the biz, including Harry Pussy, Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, Holy Terrors, and the Goods, and continues to do so till this day.
See also: Churchill's Pub: An Oral History
The brick structure at 2108 SW 57th Avenue has carried many names since it first opened its doors as a bar in 1937 -- Jean's Cocktail Lounge, Red Road Inn, Jack's Place, the Cat's Meow, Ace of Clubs. But the moniker that's outlasted them all is Duffy's Tavern. Since the day Duffy's poured its first tap in 1955, the bar has attracted some of the most popular names in jazz, football, and even politics, from Jimmy Durante in the '50s (the raspy voice behind the old-school rendition of "Frosty the Snowman") to former 'Cane and NFL quarterback Jim Kelly in the '80s. But what many may not know is that our former Commander-In-Chief Bill Clinton downed a few brewskies at Duffy's when he was governor of Arkansas. Current owner Wayne Russell remembers the time Clinton walked into the bar and ordered a drink from an English waitress. He told her that one day he would become President. The waitress sarcastically responded that one day she would be crowned the Queen of England. Years later, Clinton returned to Duffy's, but this time as the POTUS. He found that same waitress and told her he became President. The waitress laughed and responded, "I'm still a waitress." Way to rub it in, Bill.
Photo by Laurie Charles
Nowadays, Happy's Storks is known as the closest liquor store to the beach that sells booze till 5 a.m., but back in the 1950's, the 79th Street Causeway drinking den was known as the place where the city's mafiosos would shoot whiskey and where the Rat Pack would hang. Not much has changed since the bar fist opened its doors in the early-50s, but what really gives Happy's its character is that old-school charm it carries. Displayed on the wall is an original mural from way back when. It was recently discovered underneath a wooden panel after a minor renovation. Not much is known of the artwork, but word around the street has it that the bartender on the painting is Happy, the bar's original owner. But the most interesting feature on the painting is the untold story of the bullet hole. Disguised as a mole on the face of one of the female characters, how it got there is all a mystery. Some say it was a couple of cops who went trigger happy after having one too many drinks, others say it had something to do with the mob. We'll never really know, but at least it makes for a really good drinking game.
Founded by "the Father of Naval Aviation" AKA Glenn Curtis in 1926, aviation is rooted deep in the history of Miami Springs. Nearly two decades after the city was founded, Bryson's Irish Pub was born. Ever since Bryson's poured its first cold one, the bar has served pilots and airplane crew, as well as thirsty locals for over 60 years. Bryson's impact and relation to aviation was so strong that pilots used to come to the Miami Springs watering hole to gather crew. Longtime waitress Barbara recalls the days when pilots would walk into the bar and put together a team of stewards and stewardess (who'd clearly been drinking) and say, "I need a crew for a DC-11 in two hours." Pilots also used to refer to Bryson's as "the first beacon" because it was the first light they would see upon landing. Those days are long gone, but aviation students still head to Bryson's for job references. For most of it's existence, Bryson's belonged to Jimmy Bryson Sr., and later handed down to Jimmy Bryson Jr. The latter kept the bar up until his death. The drinking den was later sold by the Bryson family almost a decade-and-a-half ago to Mike and Dutch Shelow. Except for a cleaner space, minor renovations, and the addition of TV screens, the bar pretty much looks the same as it did back in the late-'40s.
Miami New Times photo archive
Way before uhntz-uhntz dominated South Beach, there was the Club Deuce. Originally opened in 1947 as Club Deuce Bar & Grill, the bar has become a SoBe gem. Mac Klein, who recently celebrated his 100th birthday, made the Club Deuce his own in 1964, the same year his daughter was born. Although the city has certainly changed throughout the years, the bar has remained untouched. During its 67 years on 14th Street, the Club Deuce has seen some of the most interesting characters walk through its doors. In an interview with New Times last year, Klein admitted, "Many characters, which should be left unmentioned, have come here. You can't be 50 years in the bar business without meeting these people. Jackie Gleason may have been here. Practically everybody in one time or another has been here. A good bar owner is one who speaks of everything and says nothing." In more recent years, however, the Club Deuce has been named one of the best bars in the country by Playboy and CNN Travel, as well as Anthony Bourdain's favorite watering hole in the 305.
An original hand-drawn painting of Fox's.
Photo by Laurie Charles
Fox's has stood at 6030 South Dixie Highway since US 1 was nothing but farm fields and dirt roads. Serving cheap booze since 1946, the bar got its moniker from its original owner, Betty Fox -- Fox's meaning belonging to Betty Fox, Sherron, the misspelling of the name Sharon, Fox's daughter, and Inn deriving from the phrase, welcome in. Lady Fox kept the bar until the mid-'60s when she sold it to George Andrews. The party hall was kept under the ownership of Andrews until 2009 when he sold it to its current owners, Ricardo Gutierrez and Rene Dahdah. Although Fox's officially opened in '46, Gutierrez recently discovered that permits for the bar were introduced in 1940. World War II happened, so construction was put on hold; permits were reissued when the war ended. Recent renovations have somewhat changed the appearance of Fox's, including the addition of an outside terrace (the lounge remains pitch black with just a few spotlights peeping out of the ceiling), but the drama that unfolded is just what you would expect from a 68-year-old bar. Rumor has it that the upstairs ran as a brothel during the late '70s, and in the '80s, a fire almost burned Fox's to ashes. But one of the most bizarre tales is the armed robbery that went down in the 1980s. According to a longtime bartender, robbers raided the bar and tied the owner to a chair. A waitress escaped through a back door and ran to the police station down the street. Moments later, the alleged bad guys were caught, and the booze kept on flowing at Fox's.
Courtesy City of Coral Gables' Historical Resources Department
2. The Bar
Coral Gables was a dry city for almost 20 years after its establishment. In 1946, however, everything changed thanks to the Bar. Originally named the Hofbrau, the Bar is the first and longest running watering hole in the Gables. Plenty has changed throughout the years, but like much of the city, it's history has been preserved. The ceiling that hovers over you as you drunkenly dance with a stranger and the floor on which you twerk on dates back to the mid-'40s. That old, stained glass Hofbrau sign that stands over the door and the two glass block windows up front? Straight outta 1946. Stories lie within every inch of the Bar, but the tale that's left definitely left a mark is linked to the Who. Word around the street has it that bassist John Entwistle sipped his last drink at the Bar before meeting his death at the Hard Rock Hotel in Vegas back in 2002. Talk about making history.
1. Tobacco Road
For over a century, Tobacco Road has made its home at 626 South Miami Avenue attracting everyone from some of the Magic City's most notorious gangsters including Al Capone to war vets, drifters, and party animals alike. Having survived 13 years of Prohibition, the ruthless McDuffie riots, the lawless Cocaine Cowboys days, and the destruction of Hurricane Andrew, Miami's oldest bar has seen it all. Going on 102 years, the speakeasy disguised as a bakery turned nudie bar turned local watering hole will soon be sold and relocated down the street. Until then, the Road is going back to its roots and embracing its history with the newly renovated upstairs lounge AKA Capone's hideaway, the Cocktail Collection. Sure, revamping the bar isn't gonna stop the future from happening, but it's definitely kept the past alive.
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