Drinking is easy. Finding the right bar, not so easy. We’re here to help. As a public service to all of you thirsty explorers, every week we highlight the best bars in America and tell you what makes them so damn great. This week we’ve got a Gulf Coast honkey tonk that contains more than 40 separate bars on one beachside property.
LOCATION: Florida-Alabama state line
ON THE STAGE: Kenny Chesney, Taylor Hicks, Ken Lambert
WHAT TO ORDER (NEWBIES): Bushwhacker: rum milkshake
WHAT TO ORDER (REGULARS): Island Girl: Blue Chair Bay rum, orange juice, pineapple juice and Sprite
WHY WE LOVE IT: There’s an unassuming, 20,000-square-foot shack on the Florida-Alabama state line that packs in hundreds of thousands of beachside boozers every year. “Flora-Bama is literally just 2x4s and plywood,” co-owner John McInnis says. “Because it’s not built out of nice materials or fancy, when people come in they let their guard down. They’re comfortable.“
The massive Flora-Bama complex, which is a maze of bars and live music stages, began as a bi-state package store in 1964. A decade later, the owner built a bar and stage on the back. “Over the years they kept adding onto the bar and building more and more stages,” McInnis says. “Then a hurricane would hit us and we’d have to rebuild. Now we have over 40 bars on the property.” In addition to the main building of bars and stages, the property also includes two restaurants and a marina. “Geographically Flora-Bama sits in a very unique area,” McInnis says. “You’ve got a Navy base, a fishing village, bikers passing through and people from all over the country who come to the beach for vacation.”
All of those people meet up at Flora-Bama, where they sip tropical drinks, slurp raw oysters and listen to country, rock and blues artists play from 11 A.M. to 3 A.M. every day of the year. “We have over 5,000 musicians a year who play here,” McInnis says. “Most of the greats have come through here, and most of the time it wasn’t planned.” Musicians such as Jason Aldean have been known to pop in and play a set, while others have gone so far as to immortalized the bar in beach ballads. Jimmy Buffet, who grew up nearby in Alabama, wrote “Bama Breeze” about the bar.
Last year for Flora-Bama’s 50th anniversary, Kenny Chesney released “Flora-Bama” and filmed the music video there—40,000 people watched the free concert from the white sand beach or from boats anchored out in the Gulf. Sound like a lot? That’s only 10,000 more people than the attendance at the Mullet Toss, Flora-Bama’s annual dead fish-throwing competition.
Alyson Sheppard is the resident hangover specialist at Playboy.com. She’s a regular at the Flora-Bama. Follow her on Twitter: @amshep