ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Literary legend Jack Kerouac’s favorite St. Petersburg watering hole back in 1969, the Flamingo Sports Bar, will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Saturday.
- Flamingo Sports Bar celebrates 50th anniversary
- Bar to hold party anniversary party on Saturday
- 25-cent draft beers and free hot dogs that day
“We’re going to turn back the clock,” said owner Dale Nichols. “Be 25-cent draft beers and free hot dogs.”
Kerouac, an author who's recognized as a pioneer of the "Beat Generation," spent his final year at The Flamingo, located at 1230 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. in St. Petersburg. Nichols said he met Kerouac through mutual friends before purchasing the bar.
“When I came back from Vietnam in ’67 all my buddies were running around with this guy,” he said. “When I got the bar in ’69 he started coming up here."
Nichols said the reason Kerouac began drinking at The Flamingo was that they had become friends too.
"He never drove. He walked," Nichols said. "Some mornings when I’d open up at 8 in the morning, he’d be sitting on the bench out there waiting.”
Kerouac moved to St. Petersburg in 1964 with his third wife and lived in a home located at 5169 10th Ave. North.
“Went over to his house and sat on the back porch," said Nichols. "We weren’t allowed inside the house. His mother and his wife were there.”
After a lifetime of heavy drinking, Kerouac, 47, died from liver cirrhosis on October 21, 1969. It's believed Kerouac had his final drink at The Flamingo less than 48-hours before his death.
“I might have served him his last drink in a bar," said Nichols. "But I’m sure he did something else at home.”
The Flamingo honors Kerouac with a mural, a wall full of newspaper clippings, photos, books, and a drink named after the novelist who paved the way for the hippie movement.
“The Kerouac Special," Nichols said. "It’s a shot of whiskey and a short shot of beer.”
Nichols said he hasn't changed the bar since Kerouac died and it has become a destination.
“They come from all over the world," he said. “They just ask me where he sat and then how was he like?"
Kerouac liked to sit on the same corner stool at the bar because it was a good spot to view all of the entrances, according to Nichols. The original stools from the 1940s are still in The Flamingo. The only thing new is the cushions.
Nichols said the building has an even deeper history.
“The bar was originally opened in 1923 as a beer joint barbecue," he said. "Then in the ’30s there was a pitcher for the Yankees named Johnny Allen, he was a friend of Babe Ruth’s and Lou Gehrig. They trained down here at Crescent Lake and he put these additions on it... I’m sure Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig came in here at that time.”
Current patrons said they've been visiting the dive bar for more than a decade.
"It’s vintage and retro at the same time,” said Don Goodrich. "I found the crowd very friendly, delightfully bohemian, and diverse at the same time.”
“There’s just a lot of characters in here. Myself included,” said Mike Perrey. “Some of the best pool players in the world have played on this table."
The 50th-anniversary party is billed as "St. Pete's oldest bar with the longest original owner." Nichols said The Flamingo will open at noon and go until they run out of beer.