This is a blog that will take you through the Rum lifestyles of a fine group of people that enjoy the fun and pleasure of fine rums. We will travel to distilleries, partys, and Rum Events to bring you the Rumstyles of all those we come in contact with.
Thursday, June 20, 2019
The Story of Josie Russell and Sloppy Joe's Bar Key West
Sloppy Joe's Duval and Greene Streets Key West
A long time in Key West
there was a bar owned and operated by a man named Josie Russell.Joe Russell was a charter boat captain, a rumrunner, Ernest Hemingway’s
boat pilot, and fishing companion for some twelve years.Prohibition was looked on as an amusing
exercise dreamed up by the government and Josie Russell was just one of several
individuals who operated illegal speakeasies. Key West residents including Papa
Hemingway, would stop by his home occasionally to buy illicit bottles of liquor.
Josie Russell and Papa
The official beginning of Sloppy Joe’s
Bar, the famous and infamous Key West saloon, was December 5, 1933–the day
Prohibition was repealed. The bar would to go through two name changes and a
sudden change of location before it would become Sloppy Joe’s, When
Prohibition ended, Josie Russell became a legitimate saloon-keeper-proprietor
of the “Blind Pig”, a droll rundown building that Russell leased for three
dollars a week.The rowdy,
come-as-you-are saloon was remodeled and renamed the Silver Slipper, with the
addition of a dance floor.It didn’t
matter–it remained a the same shabby uncomfortable
place where good friends, gambling, fifteen-cent whiskey, and ten-cent shots of
gin could be enjoyed.It was Hemingway,
a favorite patron of Russell’s bar from the start, who encouraged its name
change to Sloppy Joe’s. The new name was adopted from Jose Garcia Rio Havana
club of the same name. Because the
floor was always wet with melted ice, his patrons taunted this Spanish Joe with
running a sloppy place… and the name stuck.
Sloppy Joe's Havana, Cuba
Sloppy Joe’s literally marched across the
street to its present location on May 5, 1937. The move was the result of a rent
increase from three dollars a week to a whopping four dollars per week, a 25%
increase that Josie Russell refused to pay. Joe Russell paid $2,500 for the former
Victoria Restaurant owned by Juan Farto at the time.Built in 1917 Located at the corner of Duval
and Greene streets, the Victoria had Cuban tile work, busily whirring ceiling
fans, and jalousie doors.
In true Key West fashion, the bar never
actually closed during the transition–customers simply picked up their drinks
and carried them, along with every piece of furniture in the place, down the
block to 201 Duval Street. Service resumed with barely a blink. The new Sloppy
Joe’s boasted the longest bar in town. Behind the bar, in the back room, were
gambling and pool tables. Inside the bar hung life-size paintings of fighters
on the walls, and adorning one wall was a 119-pound sailfish caught by
Hemingway. Skinner had a place of pride above his new long curved bar. The bat
Skinner used to control his patrons still hangs on the wall today.
This bar still flourishes today at the same
location.Captain Tony’s Saloon occupies
the original location on Green Street today. Born on December 9, 1889, Josie Russell died of a heart attack at the age of 51 on June 20, 1941.