Miami’s oldest bar and music venue, Tobacco Road, closed its doors for the last time on Saturday October 25, 2014. Known in Miami as Al Capone’s hangout and for being raided by cops during the 40s and 50s, it was home to many indie rock and upcoming acts. It was also just a spot that locals could call their own.
In a city in which everything is always changing, the small bakery-turned-dive bar and music spot is dwarfed by the condos around it. It has existed in many incarnations, from its decline in the 60s and 70s and its return in the 80s and 90s. But on its last night, Tobacco Road was just music, drinks, food and one last hurrah for regulars and first timers alike. Armando Sacasa has been coming to Tobacco Road for over 17 years. “It’s a piece of history, it’s really important to me. I probably had my first legal beer here at Tobacco Road,” said Sacasa.
Vincent Garcia, who frequented the bar during the 80s, said “It’s a real jewel of old Miami, because of the rejuvenation that’s happening in the area the bar shouldn’t have to close.” Paula Hiebert, a transplanted Canadian who has frequented the bar for 7 years said, “Being such a staple in Miami, which is very rare, they’re building up so much,” referring to the ever-changing Miami skyline and its constant need to move the old out for the new. Many feel that Tobacco Road fell victim to just that, with constant change after Colombian auto executive Carlos Mattos bought the bar and the adjacent buildings. Tobacco Road and the other businesses were given three-year leases, and then they had to “make room for developers.”
Eric Vic has been performing at Tobacco Road for the last two years, and credits the bar for his success. “There’s a lot of history with music. BB King has played here.” Vic isn’t the only musician who has had a career launched by the popular Miami bar. Iko-Iko was also known to play in the bar throughout the 80s and 90s. Locals are now reminiscing on how Tobacco Road was always about the music and the patrons, which they feel gave the bar its unique atmosphere.
At the end of the day, Tobacco Road had its roots in Miami, but it also had the lore that surrounded it and the people who hung out there faithfully. The bar made a name for itself in the city, from having the first liquor license, to Al Capone running a prohibition club, to the wild behavior that caused it to close a few times in the 40s and 50s.
But this is not the end of the infamous bar, as the owners are planning to reopen further up the road. In addition, Norwegian Cruise Lines plans to recreate an homage to the bar onboard one of their ships next year.