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The Oldest Bar in Miami

By Nick Jurkowski

 

Those of you familiar with my writings (mom) know that I have a penchant for Miami’s more historic watering holes; places that have existed for a decade or more (mainly South Beach) – while remaining popular – are somewhat rare, and are generally doing something right (though cases of long-term mass delusion regarding the supposed greatness of a place is a common enough occurrence in Miami). To that end, I’d like to recommend (to anyone with a penchant for historical drinking) Miami’s oldest bar (traced from oldest liquor license), Tobacco Road.

 

Tobacco Road first started legally serving libations to swaggering patrons in 1912, and it’s still going strong today. Since its inaugural year and the years that followed, Tobacco Road has taken a few curves. Prohibition came and went (with the bar serving as a speakeasy for thirsty guests including Al Capone), numerous judges and city officials have attempted to shut Tobacco Road down for, among other charges, “lewd, wanton, and lascivious behavior.” Since the current owners took over in the early 1980’s, there have been a variety of important changes. For one thing, criminals don’t patronize it with quite the same frequency. For another, yuppies patronize it with far greater frequency. For another, it became a blues bar, featuring the likes of B.B. King and Albert Collins.

 

In spite of the renovations and improvements, (or perhaps because of them), Tobacco Road still suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. Clearly, some of the patrons remember the days when the bar was a dive in the non-ironic way, while others look like this is the first bar that they’ve ever entered. The food is typical greasy bar fare, and is just right if that’s what you’re looking for. The drinks are also pretty standard – the main draw to Tobacco Road is clearly the history and the Blues acts they have. It’s definitely worth a look, if only for the interesting cross-section of Miami culture.