Why Miami’s Oldest Bar Still Feels Young

miami bar A few weeks back, Tobacco Road, Miami’s oldest bar, turned 100 a few weeks back. Being a dive bar that is known for live music, The Road celebrated with two days of music and festivities that I wish I had attended – their bands, nachos, burgers, and cold beers are the stuff of legend! I had other events going on that weekend, though, so I was unavailable to celebrate the bar’s centennial birthday; thus, I thought I’d celebrate Tobacco Road here!

Miami is a fickle place. Restaurants open and close in a matter of weeks. Bars and lounges have to be so exclusive that normal people can’t even find them. We are the home of the NBA champions but can’t be bothered to show up to games on time. Basically, we’re a snobby bunch (as a native Miamian, I get to say that). That being said, it’s odd that a down-and-dirty dive bar like Tobacco Road would last so long, but it has because it’s been willing to change with the times.

Legend has it that Tobacco Road was granted Miami’s first liquor license in 1912, and it’s been on somewhat of a bumpy journey since then. You see, Miami was voted to be dry in 1913, well before Prohibition! Fortunately for those of us who enjoy The Road, it posed as a bakery while really operating as a speakeasy during that era. It was later purchased by a bookie and converted to a gay bar and strip club and temporarily shut down by the city. Then it operated under various names and owners until the 70’s, when it was purchased by a former police officer and given back its original moniker. The 80’s was a troubled decade for the bar as the so-called “Cocaine Cowboys” sidled into town, making its neighborhood a troubled one. But it was during that time that the bar started hosting well-known blues and jazz acts, like George Clinton and John Lee Hooker. Those big-name acts drew in new patrons who found that the bar had a great atmosphere and excellent food, and kept coming back for more. Today, the bar hosts special events like food truck rallies and holiday celebrations, and it doesn’t look like having 100 years under its belt is going to slow The Road down.

Very little lasts for 100 years down here in South Florida, but Tobacco Road has managed to do so by going with the flow. It has changed with the times and established itself as a venerable institution that I hope hangs around for another century! Cheers to Tobacco Road!

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