| Columns |

Tobacco Road Turns 101! Ten Classic Moments From Miami's Oldest Bar

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

Guys with dark beads, black Holly Hunt T-shirts, and red paisley and Hawaiian flower pattered button downs, ladies in long black and white printed dresses, pink shorts, and leopard tops, and former local rock stars crowded 626 South Miami Avenue on Friday for Tobacco Road's 101st Anniversary Bash.

Celebrating just over a century of scandals, parties, and blurred memories, the speakeasy turned gambling hall turned booze hiding spot has become one of Miami's most precious musical gems.

As notes from Dumpstaphunk, Earphunk, Jimmy Lewis, Spam Allstars, and the Eric Vick Band blasted from the outside stage of the bar to the city, Tobacco Road devotees recalled some of their best memories at Miami's oldest watering hole.

Here are ten classic Tobacco Road moments.

See also: Tobacco Road's 101st Anniversary: "Badass Bands, and Great Locals All the Time"

Protest Gatherings

"It was 1971 or sometime in the early 70s and my hair was longer than yours," said Al Ricketts who has been coming to the Road for 40 years. He was finishing up some drinks with his lady and a couple the two had just met.

"I had just burned my draft card and after a rally in Downtown, everybody was like 'We're going to Tobacco Road for drinks'," Ricketts recalled.

See also: Tobacco Road's 101st Birthday Bash 51-Photo Slideshow

"First Pot Festival"

"I also came here in 1990 for my first date with my son's mother. There was nothing but a bunch of haystacks out back."

"We came here after we raided Iraq [during Desert Storm]. There were a bunch of bands that have been coming back ever since. It may have been the first pot festival," laughed Ricketts.

See also: Top Ten Reasons Tobacco Road Should Live Another 100 Years

Criminals Drinking Alongside Judges

"Some of the old timers here, the federal judges, attorneys, and criminals, would sit at the bar, bump elbows, and have a drink," retold Ricketts.

"People have always come to have a bunch of fun and it should be preserved."

Legendary Blues Bands

Mark Weiser was jamming to music and standing by one of the jewelry tents out back.

"My best recollections are all of the great blues and roots Americana legends that have played here, like David Bromberg," explained Weiser, who was the Road's talent coordinator for 30 years.

"The music is what made Tobacco Road Tobacco Road and gave it its reputation."

Sun Ra Show

"The wildest show I remember was Sun Ra, they're like this alternative-jazz-funk-psychedelic-intergalactic band," Weiser recalled.

"There was somewhere in between 23 guys in the band that took up one-third of the room, especially when they put on their 3-foot hats. Everyone was in another world."

Hermeto Pascoal's Performance

"He's like the Brazilian version of Sun Ra," Weiser described.

"The music was amazing. Everybody was on the edge of their seat with every note."

"Sometimes music is good, sometimes it's great, and other times it takes you to another level, off the charts."

Discovery of New Talent, Thanks to Mark Weiser

DJ Oski was outside selling Tobacco Road anniversary T-shirts.

"I played here for the first time with my band the Oski Foundation on 9-9-99. I played upstairs and Mark [Weiser] met me that night," the DJ remembered.

"Mark's the best. He made this place," he claimed.

"My musical career started here. It's gonna sound funny, but I've always wanted to play here," Oski admitted. "I started booking all over Miami and DJ'd here for five years."

"I owe it all to Tobacco Road. Everybody knows the property has been sold, but we're not going anywhere and if we do, it won't be far."

Let's hope so, Oski.

Sneaking In To See Iko Iko

Eric Garcia, the Road's current talent buyer and Juke band member, remembers sneaking into the bar when he was about 19 just to see Iko Iko get their blues on.

"It was great, like magic. I thought they were like rock stars," Garcia remembered.

Running Into the Past

Sharon Harrington was sitting at a round table with some old friends.

"I actually just found out my grandfather was a lawyer for Tobacco Road," claimed Harrington.

"He was one of the founding fathers of Shutts & Bowen [founded in 1910] and when I told my mother I was going to Tobacco Road, she said that my grandfather was a lawyer for the bar," she explained.

"But I've been coming here since high school. It's been an institution and a place I grew up in. I saw someone here today that I dated in my 20s and I'm in my 50s," laughed Harrington.

"I still have friends I run into. It's a wonderful experience."

Remembering the Good Times

"My office had a party here once and my boyfriend got knocked out by a metal door," laughed Rebecca Bakker who was sitting next to her KO'd man.

"He was just standing there and the next thing I knew, he was on the ground. I thought he either got into a fight or was passed out, but it was just a door."

Sure, almost everyone in Miami has at least one story to tell about the Road, but truth is that this South Miami Avenue landmark may become nothing but yet another addition to the Miami skyline in a few short years.

"It was important for us to celebrate," said Harrington. "I'd hate to see it go away without one last goodbye."

Weiser, on the other hand, chooses to keep his faith in the Road.

"Don't worry about Tobacco Road. It's gonna be here for a long time."

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.