The Flora-Bama Lounge and Package (aka The Flora-Bama), located on Perdido Key in Pensacola, Florida, is a beachside oyster bar, nightclub, and Gulf Coast cultural landmark, touted as being America's "Last Great Roadhouse". The Flora-Bama takes its name from its location only feet away from the Florida-Alabama border (it is officially located entirely in Florida). The bar was originally in Florida but due to a dispute between the two states about building a bridge over the Perdido pass, Florida gave Alabama the land from the pass to the bar in exchange for not having to pay for construction of the bridge.
The Flora-Bama was originally constructed in 1964, two years after the road 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. In 1978, the Flora-Bama was sold to Joe Gilchrist and Pat McClellan, who remain the co-owners of the bar today.
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. The Flora-Bama first gained national attention when former Oakland Raiders 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" or "Pumptown" 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 formerly offered a huge deck where one can eat and drink while having a beautiful view of the Gulf of Mexico before its destruction by Hurricane Ivan.
In September of 2004, Hurricane Ivan scored a direct hit on the Flora-Bama, causing catastrophic damage. The main building at the entrance was completely destroyed, and most of the other sections of the bar were either destroyed or heavily damaged. The Flora-Bama shut down for the better part of a year while rebuilding efforts commenced. 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. The main building has yet to be rebuilt, but many of the old amenities have nevertheless been replaced.
While the rear deck was destroyed, a boardwalk allowing beach access was constructed in its place. An outdoor stage beneath a large tent (referred as the Tent Stage, strangely enough) was erected to complement the indoor main stage that survived the storm. Much of the property is covered by trailers of some sort or another; the main office is now housed in a trailer, a trailer serving barbecue and other food is active during peak times, and trailers are even used for storage of major supplies. Permanent rebuilding is due to commence in the winter of 2008, but trailers are favored in the meantime to prevent more losses in the event of another hurricane.
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 John Rich sometimes seen amongst the patrons.
A recent addition to the event schedule is the Annual Mullet Man Triathlon, a conventional sprint-distance race consisting of a 1/4-mile swim, followed immediately by a 15-mile bike and a 4-mile run. Not considered a serious competitive event by most of the contestants, the true motivation is (half-jokingly) said to be the post-race party.
The Jimmy Buffett song Bama Breeze was written about this roadhouse as well as others.
Flora-Bama Gets Ready for 'Bend the Fish and Throw the Fish for Charity' at Interstate Mullet Toss and Gulf Coast's Greatest Beach Party
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