Very sad news last night – iconic and historic Tobacco Road has announced it will be closing it’s Brickell bar on October 25th. As The Miami Herald noted:
One doesn’t have to walk to far in Brickell to see why it’s closing — the mega-project City Centre is going up across the street on South Miami Avenue in downtown Miami. The bar property was sold to another developer a few years ago and so Wednesday came word the inevitable was here.
Finding a new place won’t be cheap, nor will saving parts of the bar. The neon sign alone will cost $5,000 to remove. The bar plans on having a party every week leading up to the final night in hopes of raising the money to move to a new location.
via The Miami Herald Miami bar to close its doors after 102 years.
Tobacco Road is Miami’s oldest bar, having recently celebrated their 100th anniversary by participating in another wacky tradition: Red Bull Flugtag Miami. Having obtained its liquor license in November 1912, it has operated continuously since then – though it is a mystery as to exactly where it operated since the building wasn’t built until 1915! Miami-Dade was a “dry” county as of January 1914, approximately six years before the national ratification of the 18th Amendment. Consequently, the building was ostensibly a bakery with the upstairs section acting as a speakeasy and a gambling den. Among the more notorious early guests at Tobacco Road, Al Capone is rumoured to have made several appearances.
Given its proximity to the Miami River, the speakeasy was in an ideal location to unload, store and serve illegal contraband (booze). There were plenty of speakeasies to be found in Miami in the nineteen teens through the nineteen twenties. However, the location at today’s Tobacco Road is likely the only one still standing in as close of a configuration as it was in the 1920s. Patrons of Tobacco Road in 2014 can have a drink in the same room that Miamian’s and tourists of yesteryear drank illegally.
By 1938, Tobacco Road was operating openly as “South Side Bar.” During the 1940’s, Tobacco Road was known for its live jazz performances and “as one of the pre-eminent gay bars of the Southeast.” It was also declared “off limits to all military personnel.” For more on the colorful history of Tobacco Road, I highly recommend Miami-History.com’s excellent article, Tobacco Road History – From Bakery, Speakeasy to Miami City Landmark, from which the above quotes and historic photo are taken.
In the meantime, current owner James Goll says, “We’ve got a lead on another space not to far from here that we plan on opening up again.” I hope he succeeds. It is the quirky tales of places like Tobacco Road that make a city interesting.