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The Flora-Bama Lounge and Package (aka The Flora-Bama or "THE BAMA"), located on Perdido Key in Pensacola, Florida, is a world famous honkey tonk, oyster bar, beach bar, and Gulf Coast cultural landmark, touted as being America's "Last Great Roadhouse". The Flora-Bama takes its name from its location on the Florida-Alabama border line. The Flora-Bama property truly does lie in both Alabama and Florida with the bar sitting right on the line...
The Flora-Bama was originally constructed in 1964, two years after the road (Alabama State Route 182) connecting Orange Beach, AL with Perdido Key, FL was completed. In the early days of the Flora-Bama, the lounge was practically the only thing in the area. As traffic began to increase along the new highway, business grew and the lounge grew to match it with new construction added piecemeal to accommodate the larger crowds. At the time it was established Escambia County, Florida, in which it is located was "wet" while across the line Baldwin County, Alabama, was "dry". In 1978, the Flora-Bama was sold to Joe Gilchrist and Pat McClellan, who remain co-owners of the bar today. In 2009 John McInnis and Cameron Price became co-owners of the Flora-Bama along with Joe and Pat to carry it into the next 50 years.
Widely known as a place where "you can have a millionaire sitting next to a biker," this unique make-up of bar patrons is one of the contributing factors to its large appeal and attraction. Locals mingle with tourists rather easily and on large holiday weekends such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day, cars line the highway for miles in both directions as the bar draws such a large crowd. It is also a frequent weekend outing for local junior officers of nearby NAS Pensacola. The Flora-Bama first gained national attention when former Oakland Raiders and Alabama quarterback and NFL MVP Kenny Stabler referred to the Flora-Bama as "The best watering hole in the country".
The establishment is referred to by locals as simply "the Bama" and before its partial destruction by Hurricane Ivan, it boasted in the range of 20 bars on the grounds. In addition, up to 4 live bands could be playing simultaneously providing a wide array of music for visitors to enjoy. The bar is primarily outdoors, and before its destruction by Hurricane Ivan, offered a huge deck where one can eat and drink while having a beautiful view of the Gulf of Mexico. In 2010 the bar was rebuilt from hurricane damage using most of the materials from the original bar destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
Over the past 50 years the Flora-Bama has been named either the #1 Beach Bar in the U.S. or the World or listed as one of the top by PlayBoy Magazine, Maxim Magazine, Delta Sky Magazine, Men's Journal, USA Today, CNN, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Travel, Fox News, ect… to name a few… The Flora-Bama has been covered or mentioned by countless others including John Grisham (The Pelican Brief), The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Boating Magazine, Outdoor Magazine, Jimmy Buffett (Riddles in the Sand), etc…. Regardless of the fame, the owners humbly claim the Flora-Bama became world famous due to the patrons of the Flora-Bama and their motto:
To always be responsive and sensitive to the human dignity of others. To grant equal respect to all who enter the Flora-Bama, expecting the same in return. To ensure our guests enjoy the magic of the Flora-Bama, leave safe and happy and come to visit us again with new friends.
The Bama serves a local favorite known as the "Bushwacker." For the tourists visiting the area, the drink is a frozen concoction that has a coffee-esque taste and can be found at many bars around the area. The Flora-Bama Bushwhacker has contributed to the bar's world famous status. Some say that a few Flora-Bama Bushwackers will give you the best time you don't remember.
In September 2004, Hurricane Ivan scored a direct hit on the Flora-Bama, causing catastrophic damage. The main building at the entrance was destroyed, and most of the other sections of the bar were either destroyed or heavily damaged. The Flora-Bama shut down for the first few days in over 40 years and reopened with only coolers, ice and beer. The original Top Deck survived the storm in fairly good condition, and the Stair Bar area below, though full of sand, was also more or less intact. The stairs leading from the Deck Bar to the Top Deck survived, but the main stage area near the Deck Bar lost its roof. It has since been replaced with a tent-like canopy. From 2004 to 2010 the Flora-Bama literally operated out of tents, trailers, and plywood shacks until the main bar was rebuilt. Imagine a honky tonk circus on the beach.
In 2010 construction began to rebuild the Flora-Bama into its former glory. The main bar was rebuilt just like the old bar but up in the air to survive the next 30 year storm. The owners used most of the materials that were saved from the original bar including the wood from the walls and old bar tops. As is customary, plenty of duct tape, tarps, and plywood were brought in or donated by patrons to repair other areas of the bar.
The Flora-Bama has also converted an old tool shed and camper gazebo into a kitchen and bar proudly named "The Flora-Bama Yacht Club".The open air waterfront restaurant offers great food in a casual environment and has been a hit with both locals and tourists...
Despite being closed for many months while repairing and rebuilding, the Flora-Bama's crowd swarmed right back to the bar as soon as it reopened its doors. There is live music to be had every day of the week, with usually at least five bands playing on Saturdays. It is still a spot likely to attract celebrity visitors, with faces such as Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Kid Rock, and Kenny Stabler, AJ McCarron, Kenny Chesney, Vince Vaughn, Jimmy Buffett, sometimes seen amongst the patrons.
The Flora-Bama Lounge is host to a number of annual and one-time local events. Perhaps most famous of these festivities is the World FamousAnnual Interstate Mullet Toss, where individuals compete on the beach throwing a mullet (fish) from a 10 foot circle in Florida across the state line into Alabama. Not only is the Mullet Toss a great excuse to throw a weekend long party, but contributions are made to local charities, mostly to youth organizations. Winning throws approach distances in excess of 150 feet and the event is always held in the last full weekend of April (exception 2011, Moved to last April 29th-May 2nd). Additional events include the "Polar Bear Dip," the "Mullet Man Triathlon," "Super Bowl Chili Cook-off" , "Shindig on the Sand", "Flora-Bama Fishing Rodeo" and "Bulls on the Beach". The Flora-Bama is also home to one of the oldest and largest songwriters festival in the word, The Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival. The Flora-Bama has dozens of events every year, but there is a party 365 days a year.
The Jimmy Buffett song "Bama Breeze" was written about this roadhouse as well as others (although the video for the song was made at the ruins of The Firedog Saloon in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, another popular beach bar, that was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005). This is a direct quote from Jimmy's sister: "My brother Jimmy’s recording of 'The Bama Breeze' was his homage to coastal dives, particularly the famous Flora-Bama on the beach at the Alabama–Florida State line. He sent me a little love both when he changed the lyrics to call the bar owner “LuLu” and when he asked me if I wanted to play the bar owner in the video. I mused for just a second, thinking…hmmm… a woman who owns a bar, drinking a beer, jumps up on the stage and sings with the band. It wasn’t much of a stretch! I had crazy fun shooting the video but I’m glad I have my day job!"
Songs about Flora-Bama
The Flora-Bama has been mentioned or written about countless times by songwriters from all over the world. Some of the most recognizable artists include :
Jimmy Buffett - "Bama Breeze" Kenny Chesney "Coastal" Chris Young "Lighters in the Air" Blake Shelton "Good Ole Boys" Jason Alean "Tattoo's on this Town" ---This song was not written about Flora-Bama and its not mentioned but Jason shot his Vevo GoShow for the song in The Flora-Bama.
- Flora-Bama website
- Perdido Key website
- Worship @ The Water, review by a Mystery Worshiper from the Ship of Fools