Twenty-five years ago, it took nothing less than implied firepower and the authority of the National Guard to remove patrons from Mac’s Club Deuce in the wake of Hurricane Andrew. A fixture of South Beach and a hub for those who still chase their liquor with drags from a cigarette, Mac’s Club Deuce has long provided a makeshift home to the displaced. Though there was no power, Deuce regulars still made their way to the bar amid Andrew’s wreckage.
But as Hurricane Irma approaches and evacuation looms (and owner Mac Klein, of course, has left us), some patrons — and indeed the bar itself — say they won't take the chances taken by their booze-inclined forebears (even though the place was open Thursday at 11 a.m.).
“As soon as the city tells us we can’t serve anymore, we stop serving,” says bartender Mel Bedwell, who has worked at the Deuce for eight years and understands and appreciates patrons’ concerns about whether the bar will remain open as Irma makes landfall. According to Bedwell and fellow employee Alyssa Conn, Mary Klein, who inherited the bar after her husband and longtime owner Mac Klein passed away last year, will shut the bar down if ordered by city officials.
“Oh, Mac would never close it,” Conn says. “But Mary is very intent on keeping everyone safe.”
On a visit this week, 4.5 hours deep into its well-known 11-hour happy hour, the South Beach staple is packed. Conn is mingling with the ten patrons gathered around its infamous bar; two of them appear to be a couple. Although Mac’s has a reputation for being relatively immune to the withering sands of time, like the lone beam of natural light making its way through the front door, the anxieties inevitably tumble on in.
The talk of the day is apocalyptic. Deuce patrons are fixated on the TV in the bar’s upper right-hand corner. The Weather Channel doesn’t usually make for compelling television — nor is it normally on at Mac’s – but today, it’s whipping some of its viewership into a frenzy.
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On Wednesday, someone cries out, “It’s bigly fake!” as a computer-generated projection of Hurricane Irma engulfs Florida in its 785-mile-wide wake. Claims that “the Democrats did it” and that Irma is “bringing Hillary’s emails” punctuate the bar’s alternating soundtrack of '90s alternative and industrial. It’s usual for Mac’s Club Deuce to provide an intimate space for drunkenly taking the piss out of a dispiriting news cycle, but most stories don’t threaten to disrupt the Deuce’s near-constant operating hours.
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“I don’t think Mac’s regulars have a plan for the hurricane, other than whether or not it’ll be open,” says Raul Rodriguez, a five-year regular of the Deuce.
Conn confirms that many have already asked whether or not the bar’s 21-hours-a-day policy will be affected by Irma.
“We have a lot more information about safety these days, and I think common sense would dictate that getting to Mac’s should be the last thing on their minds,” Rodriguez adds. “Andrew affected Homestead and Kendall; we have to see what Irma’ll do first.”
Even weathered Deuce veterans are wary about taking their chances on camaraderie. Neil Sidney, a regular at Mac’s since ’93, has seen his fair share of storms and how they affect clientele. Reminiscing about Hurricane Ivan in 2004, Sidney knows how necessary a place likes Mac’s Club Deuce – durable, welcoming, and with doors constantly open – is to those affected by natural disasters. “When storms come everybody comes together, because we’re already a family.”