The Green Parrot. The Best Dive Bar in Key West
The Green Parrot Bar in Key West, Florida is a dive bar. But, in every sense of the word an amazing dive bar. A place you must visit, sit, have a drink and enjoy the live music. This isn’t a place you will expect to have food or blender drinks. This is Key West’s corner bar. A place where locals hang out and great bands play wonderful music. If these walls could talk… that’s what I say just about every time I grab a seat here.
Located at the corner of Whitehead Street and Southard, the Green Parrot is a Key West icon. It’s where I send people when they want to see what Key West bars of old were… and still are. Any place that’s website says the place has “seen all manner of human exploits, from poetry slams to divorce celebrations, from memorial services to hurricane parties and pet birthday bashes, from tattoo contests to fundraising benefits” is truly an iconic bar.
The beginnings of the Green Parrot were not of a bar. This place was a grocery store. In 1890, Anthony Sanchez opened the store. But, the roots of the Green Parrot Bar were put in place. In the backrooms of the grocery store, local musicians would gather and jam. A foreshadowing of what is known today as Sound Check… more on that later.
When World War II began, the grocery store became The Brown Derby Bar. A place for the submarine sailors stationed nearby to hang out and recharge. In the 1970s the Navy pulled out of Key West. The Brown Derby became a hangout for the free spirits that found themselves in Key West. Locals mixed with travelers. Much like today. The then owner, Judy Sullivan, renamed the bar.. The Green Parrot.
When Key West “pinks” were discovered, the Green Parrot became a haven for the fisherman. They mixed with the locals, tourists, and the free spirits. Then in 1983, Jim Bean bought the bar. He and his wife, Linda, had a love affair with the bar that lasted almost 30 years. Back then music drifted out onto the streets as well as customers. Things haven’t changed. Today, you can stroll by the Green Parrot, most nights and the music drifts out on the streets, and customers fill the sidewalks enjoying a drink and song.
Then in 2011, the Bean’s partner, John Vagnoni partnered with Pat Croce and took over the bar. So what did they take over? According to their website … “the spirit, great music, a place to share a beverage or a thought, a place where anything is possible, anytime. A place where people tell their stories undistracted, stripped of veneer, of pretense, and of charade. A space to just be.” Yep, that’s why I love the Green Parrot. It’s the best dive bar in Key West.
What Else Do I Love?
Who the heck is Smirk? A former bartender of the Green Parrot, Saul Paul Stewart, in 1975 painted Smirk. He was inspired by a 1974 National Geographic article “The England of Charles Dickens” Today she still hangs in the bar. Did you catch that? She? Yep, she was a girl.
A bar in Pagosa Springs, Colorado was the inspiration for this saying. It’s on the sign, still hanging in the bar. John Vagnoni commissioned the sign, and he misspelled the saying and when he picked it up… it was just as he requested. The misspelled sign still hangs in the bar.
The Liquor Store
Around the corner is the Green Parrot Package Goods & spirits store. They offer just about anything you might need during your Key West stay. What can I say… when a liquor store is owned by a bar… they can pass along the savings to us. This store offers very interesting choices and has knowledgeable staff. I love to stop in and check out anything new… and grab a bottle to enjoy by the hotel pool.
My favorite time of the day. The Parrot offers Happy Hour specials Monday through Thursday from 4pm to 7pm. Fridays 4pm until 5:30pm. The place is usually packed for Happy Hour, everyone gathers at The Parrot. No fancy drinks on the Happy Hour menu, rather a group of laid back characters enjoying a great drink, great live music and a great time.
The music here is different and great. Unlike what you will find on Duval, the music here has a different vibe. Its NOLA meets Key West. It’s funky, it’s the blues, it’s soul, it’s simply amazing. Don’t worry what live band is playing… they are all that good.
Come for the atmosphere and stay for the music. No food, just free popcorn. Basic bar, but cold beer and great bartenders. My favorite music? I love Sound Check.. (see I didn’t forget). Friday, Saturday and Sunday 5:30 to 7pm come hear the locals jam. You never know what or who you will hear. (Check out their live music cam here) Of course, the dance floor is always open. Can’t be in Key West? Check in on the party with their live cam feed.
As you can see, I consider the Green Parrot as one of my fave bars. It’s in the Florida Keys, at the end of the road and as close to a tropical paradise as you can get anywhere in the United States. Other dive bars to consider in Key West… how about Mary Ellen’s, the Chart Room, and even Captain Tony’s.