Dispatches From The Deep South
Thanksgiving at Pete’s Bar, Neptune Beach FL with Jay Miller One of the better-known landmarks of Neptune Beach, Florida is Pete’s Bar. It’s got a few things going for it – first off, Neptune Beach isn’t very big, but aside that, Pete’s was the first bar in the Jacksonville area to get a liquor license post-prohibition – Pete Jensen, who bootlegged booze out of his grocery store founded the place, and today it’s run by his great-granddaughter. It has all the charm you’d expect from a beach bar more than 80 years old – they still operate as a package store, have 25-cent pool tables and a ping-pong table in the back room and the walls emanate the smell eight decades of whiskey and tobacco whether it’s open or closed. It’s a locale in John Grisham’s book The Brethren, as the author frequented the establishment while writing part of the book. Each Thanksgiving, they also have a great street party – somewhere around three decades ago, a bartender had to work Thanksgiving. He called some friends to keep him company, and over the following 30 years, it spilled outside the bar and blossomed into a block party that runs from 9-2 the morning of Thanksgiving. It’s grown enough that folks drive in from all over Jacksonville to put down a few Bloody Marys and PBRs (Pabst Blue Ribbons) before gorging on turkey and napping it off. (I found him. He was at Pete’s.) Over the last few years, the city of Neptune Beach has seemingly gotten more concerned with the safety issue of the party, even threatening to revoke the permit, though I’m sure that would result in more drama than letting it go on. I’ve been a few times and it’s always been chill – Florida seems to save its holiday insanity for Black Friday not Pete’s. Still, Pete’s was polite enough to post the rules a few days early. At this point, the party is mostly about friends, family, drinks and sunshine, which is one of the benefits of the Sunshine State. Oh – well, those things and wearing a bunch of Thanksgiving related costumes/headgear. From full turkey suits, to native headdresses and even pilgrims, they’re pretty much all there. I could go on, but since a picture is worth a thousand words and I own a camera, I’ll save us all a few thousand words.