Sitting Here at the Flora-Bama
I happened to be in Orange Beach, Alabama recently on book business and mentioned to a longtime friend that I’d like to interview the owner of the Flora-Bama. Many folks who are disciples of Jimmy Buffett’s music know about the Flora-Bama, but for those who don’t, here is a great story about a one-of-a-kind place.
The Flora-Bama was started back in 1964 by Joe Gilcrist and Pat McClellan on some land that pretty much spans the state line between Florida and Alabama. In addition to creating a great bar, the owners were passionate about music, and especially about original music. It wasn’t long before one could go hear music at the Flora-Bama 365 days a year.
The drinks were reasonable, the atmosphere funky, and the beautiful beach and emerald water of the Gulf of Mexico was just yards away from the structure.
Fast forward to 2004 and Hurricane Ivan: much of the area around the Flora-Bama sustained a great deal of damage from the effects of the hurricane. In fact, the bar is so close to the sand dunes that the structure was practically covered in sand. I was told that you could dislodge any of the original timbers inside and sand will still pour out.
The Flora-Bama began to rebuild, but after a few years, the monetary picture began to be a little shaky. Enter a young, energetic local fellow named John McInnis and the Flora-Bama’s future began to change for the better.
John is one of the friendliest and most generous young men I’ve met in some time. We toured the historic place and he introduced me to staff members and loyal patrons. By the time I left, I was ready to move to Lower Alabama, just to be a part of this “family.”
He showed me the various performing venues, the fantastic beach view and even the ladies’ room where “Mick Jagger came through town, bought the house a round…. and signed his name in the ladies’ bathroom stall!”
John continues the longtime fun spirit of the Flora-Bama with a restaurant, marina and package store right across the street.
When I was there, a large bingo game was in full session and I’m told there is even a church service there on Sunday morning. “Worship on the Water” routinely attracts around 300 folks. And Kenny Chesney plans on making his huge beachside concert last summer an annual event there!
John greeted me with a hug and sent me off after a great interview in the same fashion. Besides being a fabulous joint for great libations on a beautiful beach, the Flora-Bama can get in your heart quickly. Don’t miss it if you’re in that area of Alabama or in Florida near the Alabama border!
Check out the Flora-Bama’s annual events coming up, such as the New Years Eve Party and Polar Bear Dip!
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Thursday 4th of December 2014
Hi John - Thank you so much for clarifying the history of the Flora-Bama. I didn't have that information in my notes, and I can't deny that I could have heard it, but was so overcome by the view and unique atmosphere that I failed to write it down! If you live in the area, you are indeed fortunate. I adored my recent trip to Orange Beach... everyone was wonderful and the locale is so gorgeous!
Thanks again and thank you for reading TropRockin.com - Cindy Muir
Thursday 4th of December 2014
Cindy, Your History of the Flora Bama is incorrect. It was founded by Mr. Tampary and he owned the land west of the Flora Bama to the Pass. He later sold the Flora Bama to Joe Gilchrist and pat Mclellan some time in the late 70's early 80's