Tavern in the Grove, an Iconic Miami Dive Bar, Is Closing

Last call for Tavern in the Grove.
Last call for Tavern in the Grove. Photo courtesy of Tavern in the Grove
Since 1987, Tavern in the Grove was that most beloved of institutions: the classic American dive bar. It was the place to grab a beer and watch the game — or just watch time go by with friends.

However, after three decades, the tiny hole in the wall will serve its final round this Sunday, January 19.

The following announcement was posted on Instagram:
We truly regret to inform you that our little legendary dive bar is about to become legend in the name of big business. We are as sad as you are to lisr this historic piece of Coconut Grove because, unlike most places we frequent these days, Tavern has soul. An energy gained through history and epic times that we helped create and sometimes barely remember. In turn, Tavern helped creatd who we are today with new found friendships, experienced, relationships, one-night stands, celebrations, funerals, good times, bad times, you know you've had your share...

At the end of an era, this place we consider a home away from home will live on through the millions of stories its extensive and eclectic family has spawned over the last 33 years!

Please be sure to visit, share a story, and reminisce over a beer or few in the iconic Geove staple before it's gone!

Last call to the public will be January 19, 2020 at close.

Thanks for the memories...and...lack of.  Cheers.
Co-owner Lee Kessler says he got word of the Tavern's impending closure Christmas Eve but decided not to share the news until after the holidays were over. "We didn't want to bum everyone out."

Kessler, who also owns Coconut Grove's Barracuda Taphouse & Grill, says he and Brett Dusharm of Sandbar purchased Tavern in the Grove to save the little bar from closing without notice in September 2018. "It was 2 p.m. on September 4, and I went to Sandbar for tacos. Brett basically said to me: 'Do you wanna buy a bar?'" Kessler says the two purchased the place for back rent but knew time might be short for the little bar. "We bought it knowing that the outcome from underlying legal issues could kill it, but if we didn't, Tavern would have just died without anyone being able to say a proper goodbye."

Kessler says the bar is just one more casualty in Coconut Grove's transition from a small village of hippies and boaters to a world-class destination for the well-heeled. "The Grove is going through an evolution. There's a lot of big business coming to the Grove, and I don't know if they see bars like this existing."

The small establishment embraced its dive-bar image with all that the phrase implies and had a rich history as part of the fabric of Coconut Grove. According to Kessler, long before it was Tavern in the Grove, the space housed a bar as early as the 1920s. The bar changed names and ownership several times before being launched as Tavern in the Grove October 31, 1987.

In 2013, the bar closed for renovations and reopened with some much-needed improvements to the plumbing. In an article about the proposed face-lift, New Times compared the bar's bathrooms to one at a hostel in Kenya that turned out to be a hole in the ground.

The grit, however, was what made Tavern in the Grove a beloved spot. In a city that's become more expensive and slicker, dive bars are an important part of the community. They're a reminder that the majority of the people who make up the city don't live in million-dollar condos — that most of us simply want a place where the TV is on, the bartender is warm, and the beer is cold and cheap.

Over the past few years, Coconut Grove's renaissance has slowly erased the neighborhood's charm. For years, locals fought to save Scotty's Landing — the best place in Miami to grab a beer with your dog. Mr. Moe's, the hunting lodge-themed bar best suited for a Wisconsin suburb, shuttered after years in business. The Grove Spot, a small place to grab an ale and a simple meal, also closed. The Grove still boasts Sandbar, Taurus, and the Barracuda — bars that continue to offer affordable drinks in a no-frills setting.

For now, there's still time to hoist a few at Tavern in the Grove before the doors close. This Saturday, January 18, the neighborhood will host a pub crawl that stops at Tavern in the Grove. And Sunday, January 19, Kessler and his partner will pour drinks until last call. "I've heard that old friends and customers are flying in for the last day," Kessler says. "It's a very humbling experience."

Tavern in the Grove. 3416 Main Hwy., Coconut Grove; 305-447-3884.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss