Key West Bar Hops
The Keep Calm and Hop On Tour
Hops MacBarley's Ongoing
Key West Bar Boondoggle
Saturday, 13 March 2021, 6:40 PM
Crazy Lady (draft) $3.00 HH, Local
Marge likes this place. A lot. She’s glad to see so many people in here. So many locals!
And Marge is all too familiar with how empty this building has been since Finnegan’s Wake (#5) closed.
She knows all about the utter failure of FW’s successor, Backspace (#242), although she could not remember the name. I doubt many people do. I only remembered it because Backspace, one of the shortest-lived bars in Tour annals, was a very unlikely choice for one of just 16 photos (out of more than 1600) selected for the KWBH home page. How many of those 16 can you identify?
Marge lamented the too-frequent emptiness of Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar (#267) when they were located here, and she had had high hopes for The Dirty Pig (#324 – a mere 15 Hops ago) before the pandemic laid them low.
Yes, Marge knows her bars! It was serendipity that we ended up on neighboring stools in this Hop, my first visit to what might be Key West’s newest bar: Marylin’s Pub. (Officially, the word “Restaurant” is in there too, but this is a Bar Tour, thank ya please, so I’m cutting to the chase.)
Marylin’s – the spelling is intentional – has been open less than two weeks, I believe, and is one of the closest bars to my humble abode, a mere five-minute stroll. Thus, I hoped for something good as I approached. It was a good sign that the outdoor patio (formerly Finnegan’s Wake Patio Bar, #215) was not just occupied, but just about full.
When I stepped through the front door, I told the hostess one of the most-repeated lines of my Key West life – “Just going to the bar.” But then I had a scare. The bar looked full! What?? No room at the inn, Lynn?? There are two bars here and I did not see an empty stool at either. This could be a setback.
I mean, hey, kudos and huzzahs to Marylin’s for the crowd, but Hops needed a seat at the bahh. There were a few tables that were empty, but pshaw on those. Tables are for the type of people who sit at tables.
Tour Rules, etched in stone more than 100 moons ago, decree that:
1: I must procure a
It doesn’t have to be beer, but it almost always is. Wino (#152), Fat Tuesday (#96), Hard Rock Upstairs (#280), and The Other Side (#216) leap to mind as exceptions, and that might be all. Four out of 338. WTF, my name’s Hops, fer cryin’ owt lowd. By the way, the beverage does not have to be bought by me. It can be a freebie, or you could buy me a drink. Feel free to, anytime. And…
beverage must be served to me by a bartender.
I don’t have to be seated. If the bar is crowded, then standing is fine, but I have to get my drink from a barkeep, not a server.
There is NO Rule 3. (Tip of the hat to Monty Python.)
So, you see my slight plight, right, Dwight? Sitting at a table would void the Hop, and, let’s face it, sitting alone at a four-top table is a bad look.
I walked deep into the restaurant, admiring the newness and sparkly décor, but also scanning for a seat There seemed to be a gap near the back end, but there also seemed to be stuff on the bar as a placeholder. Someone was using the Invisible Friend Ploy. I’ve done that with my two invisible pals, Ima and Gina, before, but not since Shameless (#220). They were helpful in holding seats till my erstwhile primary Hop-eratives, B&J, could arrive.
Shameless was years ago. I wonder where Ima and Gina have gone? I can’t imagine…
I was just about on top of that gap when I saw an extra seat tucked in between Imaginary Man and a colorfully-attired woman. I didn’t bother asking the ghost if it was OK to sit here – I knew what his (or her?) answer would be – but I politely asked the floral woman. She kind of had her back to me because she was talking to her husband to her right, and their two friends beyond him. She gave me a friendly, “Of course!” and I made myself comfortable.
It was a familiar set-up, and one that I can enjoy: a couple on each side, occupied with themselves and all but oblivious to my presence. I have done some quality writing in this circumstance. A bar has always been my favorite place to write. Well, maybe not in high school, but after that.
There was a female singer
performing on the stage near the front door as I entered,
searched and settled. She
sounded good too! But
by the time I procured my beverage (R1) from the barkeep (R2) and settled back for
some new-bar relaxation, the singer’s set ended.
But, hey, armed with a cold draft and my black marble Composition Notebook (which is actually my iPad 8th Gen case), I was ready to settle in to write up Hop #338 from the night before.
Then I noticed The Chip. Yes, that 1.25” diameter, 0.125” thick red plastic disk that said “DRAFT” on it. I have rarely seen such a thing since The Lazy Gecko (#2) closed.
As the bartender brought a drink to my left-neighbors (the ghost had taken human form while I was not looking), I asked her, “Does this chip mean what I think it means?”
She grinned, “If you think it means 2-for-1, yes, till 7:00. 1:00 to 7:00 every day!” she said with obvious pride.
Holy crap. Most holy crapola, Batman. Two-4-one for six hours! I was sitting in a slight stun, letting the weight of that statement sink in, and that’s when I met Marge.
She had turned forward in her seat, was amused by my stupefaction, and said, “I know, isn’t it great?”
“And look at all the people. It’s so good to see this big building with people in it again.”
That’s when we launched into the history of the prior tenants and the woes that each faced. She and her husband had been to all of the variations. I did not catch his name, but I’m gonna call him Sarge, just because I can’t resist the Sarge ‘n’ Marge thing. He’s retired military, so maybe, y’know?
I told Marge about the Barhoppin’ Bone Island opus and showed her the new and improved web site. That got us galloping through so many bars, I can’t even remember. I have to wonder how many of the 339 she has been to. I gonna guess it’s at least 100.
She misses the Gecko too, and was so disappointed in its successors, Duval Central (#283) and I.C. Doubles (#314): “They never did anything for their locals! Ohh, we’ll be fine. Riiight.”
Marge and Sarge LOVE the new White Tarpon (#332) and, like yours truly, used to hit HH there a lot when it was the Boathouse (#58).
She seemed downright upset that the new version of the Boathouse was not open yet, and adamant that they should have kept the Tower Bar (#117) open while they revamped the interior of the former Turtle Kraals (#88). I had to whole-heartedly agree.
Marge is a kindred spirit, all right. I’d be willing to bet this is not the first time she and I were in the same bar at the same time.
Meanwhile, my 1 was done so I deployed my chip on the rim of my empty glass to signal that I was ready for my 2-fer.
It felt good to do that again. It was standard procedure at The Gecko, an easy way to put up a casual flag that the bartender could see from a long way away, so (s)he could pour me another at his or her convenience and drop it off on the way by.
RayRay even had the knack of swiping downward at it, making it flip high in the air, and catching it. Slick. Once, though, he flipped it too hard and soared out of reach and splashed into Jacko’s beer. Oops. Jacko’s response: “I got me a chip!”
As she set down the refill, my barkeep (I didn’t catch her name, Jill will work) asked if I wanted any food. I waved it off with a thank you.
“Dude,” the not-so-invisible-man piped in, “that steak was awesome.” It was the type of unsolicited review that restauranteurs dream about. He even repeated it with a disbelieving head shake, “Awesome.” He looked like he wanted to order another one.
Those two guys were a kick. I had heard the seat-saver tell the barkeep as I was laying claim to the open seat, that he was saving it for his fiancée. They were a fun couple. It was easy to see who was going to be the husband (spoiler alert: the bearded steak man).
The next entertainer took that stage with a flourish. (S)he was a drag queen, which surprised me a bit, and was quite an entertainer. First of all, this ol’ gurl could sing! She bellowed out some notes that elicited applause and woooo’s from the crowd. She chatted up the crowd between numbers and called our attention to the table tents (they were on the bar too): Cashless Tips.
What a concept. Venmo, PayPal, and CashApp QR codes were all on the card. Just aim your phone at it and click in your gratuity: impulse tipping that is totally painless (for the moment).
As I aimed at it to snap a pic, the focus box on my screen kept locking in on the QR grids. I don’t think I accidentally tipped her, but I haven’t checked my PayPal yet.
My second Crazy went down all too well and I could feel momentum wanting to build. I had writing to do, a very thin wallet, and a gym session slotted for later on, so I opted out and asked for my check.
Jill went off to get something, then rang it in. As she handed me the billfold, she said with a smile, “I gave you the Locals’ Discount.”
I opened my billfold. Total, including tax: $6.00. Six bux for two Crazy Lady drafts. I turned to Marge with a contented grin. “I just got two beers for six bucks.”
“Isn’t it amazing?” chimed in Marge. “2-for-1 for six hours AND a 20% discount! And on Tuesdays, you can bring in chips from other bars and they’ll honor those! Who else does that??”
“No place I’ve been to lately!” I replied. “I paid $7.50 for just one of these at Old Town Rodeo a week ago.”
I left Jill a grateful
50% tip, bid farewell to Visible Man and his fiancée, left Marge
and Sarge in charge, and sauntered back homeward.
I was about a block away when I heard myself saying aloud, “Two beers for six bucks!!” I reckon Marylin’s made a gooood impression.