Bougainvillea's Old Florida Tavern closes at the end of the month
Come February 28, Bougainvillea's Old Florida Tavern (7221 SW 58th Ave., South Miami, 305- 669-8577) — a bar located inside a rust-colored cottage engulfed by gargantuan amounts of greenery, clanking beer bottles, and sweet grooves care of Sublime's 40 Oz. to Freedom (which seems to be on constant loop) — will close forever.
That's right. No more poker tournaments for free bar tabs or ladies' nights swirling with so much estrogen that only a Victoria's Secret semiannual sale could rival the number of boobies present. Say goodbye to marijuana-induced performances by Locos por Juana, booze-fueled block parties, Halloween bashes, and that little dude who walks around selling roses. Because in less than a month, all of it will be as extinct as the T-Rex emblazed on the T-shirt of Chelsea, a pretty, sugar-voiced 22-year-old bartender.
"We all think the situation stinks," she says in a pixie-stick tone as she waltzes about behind the wooden, Spaghetti Western-inspired bar slinging $3 Yuengling drafts. "I've had some crazy experiences in this place."
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"This regular who everyone really likes named Dan came in with his girlfriend. They were in here drinking when all of a sudden the girlfriend yells, 'No one loves you, Dan Sanchez! No one cares about you!' and then threw a drink in his face. Well, our manager felt bad for Dan, walked over to the couple, and said to him: 'I love you, Dan Sanchez. I care about you.' So his girlfriend got pissed off and punched the manager in the face!"
Sitting on the other side of the bar is Ashley, a 24-year-old Seattle native whose size and hyperactivity match those of a Mexican jumping bean. She remembers bringing her mom to what the regulars call Bougie's.
"She's a pretty upright, conservative woman," Ashley says, squeezing her nostrils with her fingers, giving her nose a quick rub, and then snorting loudly. "But we came, drank Red Stripes all night, danced, and didn't fight about my tattoos. Some guy even hit on her by the end of the night!"
That's so sweet it makes me want to puke. Which is precisely what Simone, a chubby, curly-haired Chinese-Jamaican in a way-too-tight bra is doing in the sink of the ladies' room when I ask about her most memorable moment at Bougie's.
"I had just gotten off my shift at Red Lobster and was still in my work clothes. I had a rough day, so as soon as I got here, I wanted to drink my ass off. After a few shots, I had to break the seal. So I ran to the bathroom. But the line was so long that I ended up peeing in my pants.
"I left right away, but when I got to my car, I felt way too drunk to drive. So I decided to take a nap. When I woke up the next afternoon, I looked at the clock and realized that I had 15 minutes to get to work and open the bar. I didn't have time to go home and change. So I rushed over there and worked a double in my piss-stained pants."
Uh, dirty martini, anyone?
It's on to the back patio, which on slow nights doubles as a parking lot. There I run into Javie, a green-eyed Puerto Rican with a shaved and shiny, bowling ball-like head. "Before I met Leila," he says, signifying that his tall, dark-skinned, and attractive companion is his girlfriend by grabbing her thin waist, "I met a girl from Alaska here, on this very patio, named Penelope."
Leila snickers as if she has heard this one before.
"She wasn't very good-looking," Javie continues, "kind of like a cross between Ursula from The Little Mermaid and the Wicked Witch of the West. Anyway, I could tell she didn't have the highest self-esteem because she was standing alone, texting, and looking miserable. I guess she found me attractive because she eventually asked me for a cigarette. Knowing that big girls need love too, I told her she could bum one if she showed me her tits. Which she did. And they were disgusting."
"Didn't you say they were like man-boobs?" Leila asks, sharpening her claws.
"Yeah, they were. But I told her they were nice and gave her a 'grit. She had a smile on her face the rest of the night."
"I once pretended to be my best friend's lesbian girlfriend to get a guy to stop hitting on her," Leila says proudly. "We made out right in front of him."
"That must've been so hot! I mean, just look at her," Javie says, gesturing to his girl like she's a Jet Ski on The Price Is Right. "She's so gorgeous. She doesn't even need to wear makeup."
"I don't," says Leila, whose jaw line is a completely different color than her neck.
In front of Bougie's, in a garden lit by a few strands of white Christmas lights, I meet Claire, a redheaded bohemian type.
"I had no clue," she says when I inform her of the bar's imminent demise. "My boyfriend and I have some history here. Before we started dating, we loosely hung out in the same crowd. There was always this intense attraction, but we never got a moment alone to talk. One night, we both hitched rides here with a mutual group of friends.
"It took him a couple of hours, but he eventually drank up the nerve to take me aside to that very spot over there," she says, pointing to a secluded corner in the back of the garden. "And right as we're about to have our first real conversation, both our rides come over to tell us that everyone wants to go home."
Sounds like emotional blue balls.
"Exactly!" she laughs.
But I suppose Claire will finally get her rhetorical relief.
"Now that I know it's closing, I'll have to bring him by, buy us both a beer, and say goodbye to this place the best way we can."
Aw, and this time there's no vomiting involved.
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