Bahama Bob's Rumstyles

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Rumstylin' in Key West at Sloppy Joe's

     Sloppy Joe's has a colorful history here in Key West.     It was started back in the prohibition days by Joe Russell at 428 Greene Street ( Present location of Captain Tony's).     Joe was one of several enterprising  people that operated an illegal speakeasy during the era in Key West.     Joe became a legitimate saloon keeper on December 5, 1933 the day prohibition was repealed.     His saloon was called the Blind Pig, located in a shawdy rundown building he rented for 3 dollars a week.       After a dance floor was added the rough and tumble saloon was renamed "The Silver Slipper".      The name change wasn't any help as the saloon remained a rowdy place for friends to gamble and drink 15 cent whiskey and 10 cent gin shots.       This place was always wet with melted ice, and many of the patrons would taunt Spanish Joe about running a "sloppy" place.    It was Hemingway, Joe's good friend that encouraged him to rename the place "Sloppy Joe's after the Jose Garcia Rio Havana club.     

     Sloppy Joe's moved to the vacant Victoria Restaurant building on May 5, 1937 over the famous $1 a week rent raise that Joe refused to pay.   You really couldn't blame him, if my landlord raised my rent 25%,I'd probably move out also.      Following in true Key West tradition without closing the bar the move was accomplished with patrons simply carrying their drinks up the street to the present location at the corner of Duval and Greene Streets.     The new saloon boasted the longest bar in Key West at the time, and a walled off room for gambling.     In the Gambling room were paintings of prize fighters and a 119 pound sailfish caught by Hemingway.     After the official opening of the bar, Hemmingway and many of his friends ("Mob") were regular visitors to the bar.     Such notable locals as John Dos Pasos, Waldo Pierce, J.B. Sullivan, Hamilton Adams, Captain Eddie Saunders and Henry Strater were among the regulars.    Little did these people know they were building the place as a legend at the time.

     Joe Russel passed away in 1941 of a heart attack (53 years old) after he was immortalized in Hemingway's  "To Have and Have Not.    Hemingway called him "Jose Grunts"  the owner of Freddy's Bar and captain of the Queen Conch.    Hemingway and Joe were companions for 12 years, and as captain for Hemingway, they caught an amazing 54 marlin in 115 days.    Joe Russell was a charter boat captain, rumrunner, and saloon owner in some of the most colorful days of Key West.

     Today the venerable old saloon is still at it's Duval and Greene Street location and flourishes with the lively party goers and revelers of the 21st century in the tradition of Hemingway and his mob.      The bar is open 365 days a year boasting hospitable bartenders and servers that keep the customers come in at all hours of the day and night.      Sloppy Joe's remembers who had a lot to do with the fame by honoring "Papa" Hemingway with the "Hemingway Days Festival" each year   and the Hemingway Look-a-Like contest.

     This is a must visit should you come to Key West.     The entertainment, food, and beverage is always part of the magic that keeps Sloppy Joe's around year after year.     ;o)                                     

1 comment:

  1. wonder if any pictures exist of the original sloppy joes (captain tonys) from the early 30's