PERDIDO KEY, Fla. (WKRG) — For more than six decades the Flora-Bama has been just across the Florida – Alabama state line in some shape, form or fashion, and almost everyone that visits always comes back.
It has been called a saloon on the Gulf of Mexico, America’s Roadhouse, a five-star Honkytonk and a place where everyone is welcome.
“We give everybody respect walking in the door,” says co-owner Pat McClellan, “From tattoos to turbans it doesn’t make any difference.”
McClellan is one of the original partners in the Flora Bama that most know today. He and Joe Gilchrist are legends around here. Joe passed away last year, but almost everywhere you look his legacy is still alive. Their history is written on almost every wall.
“They are amazing and this place is absolutely incredible and it’s a neat thing to be a part of.” Co-owners Cameron Price and John McInnis were asked in 2009 to help carry the Bama into the future for the next generation. For McInnis, it is a dream come true.
“It’s pretty cool when I was growing up the Flora-Bama didn’t seem like something that was attainable. It was always going to be Joe and Pats and nobody ever thought past that.”
“In us, they saw somebody who could kind of carry their vision into the future,” says Price. “Expand on it and grow it and we are super honored to work with those guys for all the years that we have.”
That expansion has included more restaurants and commercial marine operations. but the true story of the Flora-Bama could not be told without the music.
Another part of Joe Gilchrist that lives on, The Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival was his baby. The music plays here year round with 3,000 acts performing every year including a few surprise guests.
“The biggest blessing in the world, when you own a beach bar is having Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffet and all these world-famous rock stars play,” says McInnis. “The reality is 99.5 percent of the musicians that play here are our local musicians and those guys are our rock stars.”
From bushwhackers to the lingerie that adorns the main room, the Flora-Bama has a little something for everyone but its foundation is built on the people who love it. “That’s what it’s all about,” adds McClellan, “the people and the music and people enjoying themselves here.”
Part of that enjoyment includes the Mullet Toss, the Polar Bear Dip and the dozens of other charitable events hosted by the Flora-Bama each year with millions of dollars in proceeds going to the American Cancer Association, St. Jude and numerous veterans groups just to name a few.