Mar 29, 2020

Answering the call of the Green Parrot Bar, Key West, Fla.

Few spots on earth will put me in my happy place faster than a trip to the Green Parrot Bar in Key West, Fla.  That said, I must admit I’m grossly under-qualified to blog about this place compared to several of my friends who frequent the Conch Republic much more often than me.  So, forgive me if I omit something or fail to touch on any important points, but feel free to share your Green Parrot stories.

Nonetheless, no trip to Key West would feel right to me without making at least one stop at the Green Parrot.   It’s like vacationing in New Orleans and not going to Pat O’Brien’s.  You just don’t do it. 

So, let’s get into why the Green Parrot Bar is such a Key West institution. 

First, you’d have a tough time finding a bar in Key West with a longer and more storied history.  As noted on the sign next to the bar’s Whitehead Street entrance, the “First and last bar on U.S. 1” (the designated end of the highway is marked with a road sign a block from the bar), there’s been a business on this site since 1890 – a grocery store and first, a bar since the Great Depression, and specifically the Green Parrot since the 1970s.  It’s no wonder why longtime visitors and locals have an inherent draw back to this place. 

And from the minute you have a seat at the bar and sip on your first drink, you can sense why people want to come back year after year.  With its location a block off the craziness of Duval Street, it’s an ideal escape for the pursuit of day drinking, and the one bar locals are most likely to recommend to visitors for its laid-back vibe.  Sunny or rainy, no matter the temperature outside, the doors always seem to be open.    

Then there’s the overall quirkiness of your surroundings.  Every picture or painting literally tells a story.  Other décor merely seems to exist in order to ask yourself how it got there.   For instance, is that a parachute or part of a circus tent hanging from the ceiling?  I never could decide.

And it doesn’t get more eclectic than a portrait resembling the Garden of Eden, “Jamaican Ski Team” water skis with sandals attached to them, a disco ball and the American flag.  Somehow, it all works.

I tend to always visit the Green Parrot Bar during the day, but it’s also the place to be for live local music most nights of the week.  And the range of acts they book is pretty impressive – honky tonk, reggae, jazz, roots rock, you name it.  Apparently, their Ukulele Night jams are legendary.  The stage is fittingly cozy for a beloved dive, yet somehow the place never seems overcrowded.  Maybe it’s because people and the party tend to spill out onto the streets.

Another feature of the Green Parrot Bar that is fittingly small are the bathrooms, so consider yourself properly warned.  But you’d expect less than ideal facilities in a building that dates back to the 19th Century.

The bar does have one thing few other dive bars can claim, though – a gift shop, accessible from the outside or an entrance just beyond the men’s room.  Because the place is so synonymous with a visit to Key West, I can safely say the Green Parrot won’t lose any credibility as a true dive bar for it.     

Even cooler than the gift shop is this lending library/book exchange the Green Parrot provides on its porch. It has to be little touches like this that makes the Green Parrot Bar such an institution as a neighborhood watering hole.   

It’s great to embrace the chaos that comes with Key West.  But if you want to live in Key West time like the locals do, you’ll feel welcome at the Green Parrot Bar.      

See? Happy place. 

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