In the many biker-themed movies of the '70s, there's invariably a roadside dive where much of the action takes place. Usually, these are beer-and-whiskey establishments — an oasis on the open road where travelers can rest, drink and scheme.
Seminole Boulevard is home to a historic bar that could easily fit into such a scene.
Screwie Louie's Porpoise Pub has been around in one form or another for some 50 years. In true Old Florida fashion, the pub was once home to exotic wildlife, such as alligators, monkeys, and yes, even a live porpoise. Over the years, the wildlife disappeared, but the place kept the classic Florida vibe.
Fast forward to about two years ago, when the Porpoise Pub came under the proprietorship of Screwy Louie, of Screwie Louie's Bar and Grille in Madeira Beach. Under this slightly amended banner, the Porpoise Pub has transitioned from quirky Florida roadside bar to biker-friendly quirky Florida roadside bar, hence the imagery that came to mind when I visited.
I stepped into the bar on a Wednesday night, right in the middle of the Electric Blues Jam, a weekly open-mic night where performers get a free draft beer and a chance to win a $25 gift certificate at nearby Seminole Music & Sound. Most of the patrons were seated around the large, circular bar in the center of the room, while a band performed classic rock covers on a small stage at the far end.
Although the Porpoise Pub has a strong following in the biker community, it's also known for a fairly eclectic clientele, and it's easy to see why. From the sandy, mock beach of the volleyball area to the main indoor bar, there's simply a lot going on at any given time. The size of the property is astounding; just as I wandered over to one area of the grounds to investigate, a bar, seating area, or game room appeared.
Most of the action takes place in the main bar — a roomy, enclosed gazebo with a bar in the center, surrounded by several arcade games, table tennis, a seemingly unused fireplace and a disturbing claw game filled with live lobsters. Immediately outside is a similar gazebo (sans bar) and a detached side bar and game room, with restaurant-style seating and a pool table.
Behind all this is a large sand lot, with a school bus converted into yet another bar sunken into the sand, the volleyball court and a large stage where some of the bigger acts perform.
The Porpoise Pub sees its fair share of high-attendance events, but I have to admit that I was a bit surprised to see that they had landed the Marshall Tucker Band for a recent charity gig. It's not often that you get to catch a show by such a big name at your local pub.
As for drinks, the Porpoise has just about what you'd expect. Domestic beers, a few import bottles, a basic house wine and plenty of spirits cover the dive-bar standards.
The staff was very friendly and helpful, so don't be afraid to get creative if you feel like venturing past a simple shot and a wash; just don't get too carried away.
Screwie Louie's Porpoise Pub is a fine place to get a drink if you're in the area, and it's even more fun to imagine what the scene would have been like a few decades ago, with hippies and bikers co-mingling with monkeys and alligators.
It's not quite as wild nowadays, but there's still plenty going on.