The Caribbean Club Bar in Key Largo- a step back in time
Opened in 1938, the Caribbean Club is the oldest bar in the Upper Keys and one of the last relics of Old Key Largo. It was the final project of the famed automotive and real estate promoter Carl Fisher. It served as a poor-man’s fishing retreat and included a small hotel, restaurant and the bar that remains today — making it the oldest bar in the Upper Keys.
After Fisher’s death in July 1939, the Caribbean Club became a popular gambling joint, and in 1947, Warner Brothers used the hotel and bar as inspiration to write the Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall film, Key Largo. I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with the life-sized statues of Lauren and Bogie. Lots of exterior shots in the film were shot there for Key Largo, and the tradition carried on until most recently it served as a filming location for the Netflix original series Bloodine.
Bought by the Krone family in 1948, the bar was ravaged by fire that started under suspicious circumstances in 1955, destroying the hotel and kitchen. Ruth and Lefty Whitehurst purchased the Caribbean Club in 1963 and it was again damage by fire in 1971, this time a result of arson intended to conceal a burglary. The Caribbean Club remains in the Whitehurt family, currently run by Ruth & Lefty’s three children and two grandchildren.
It’s a watering hole for both locals and tourists, with memorabilia from the Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall days. Live music blasts away from Thursday through Sunday nights, and the happy hours seem never-ending in this dog-friendly haven. Yep, it’s laid back and people arrive by car, boat or bike to enjoy the stiff drinks, live music, and beautiful sunsets.
I especially enjoyed the memorabilia hanging from the rafters and walls. Such history! While sipping an Iguana Bait beer poured from the tap, I stepped outside onto the back patio and sat at a comfortable bench, enjoying the world-class view of the waters of Blackwater Sound and the distant southern edge of the Everglades National Park. Gulls and herons flew overhead while and I jotted down my impressions of the joint, and things to do while visiting the Caribbean Club:
· Watch the sunset.
· Inspect the photos hanging on the walls. I found Jack Nicholson enjoying himself there.
· Definitely have at least one Key Lime Pie rum punch.
· Talk to the locals and learn the Best-Kept Secrets and things to do and see around Key Largo. You’ll learn a lot!
· Watch the live entertainment there, which is usually awesome!
· Take a “selfie” with the statues of Bogie and Bacall.
· Dump any fancy needs at the door and get ready for an old school dive bar atmosphere. BTW, it’s cash only.
Lastly, this video reveals it all about the Caribbean Club: KJ Heads to Original Pit Stop Party at the Caribbean Club.
Robert Morton is a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), enjoys writing about the U.S. Intelligence Community, and relishes traveling to the Florida Keys and Key West, the Bahamas and Caribbean. He combines both passions in his Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster series. Check out his latest spy thriller: MISSION OF VENGEANCE.