Located at 1117 Duval Street, The Speakeasy Inn is a stop on the historic walking tour, but it really is more than just a stop. The Speakeasy Inn is a quaint and wonderful place to stay. Everyone who stays here loves the atmosphere, the staff and of course The Rum Bar. The Rum Bar boasts over 230 bottles of rum on their shelves and a knowledgeable staff to help you pick the perfect rum … or rum drink.
Inside The Rum Bar, it’s quiet and cozy. Even though the bar is located on the typically busy Duval Street, The Rum Bar is located at the quieter end of Duval. The walls are made of Dade County Pine and you feel like you have arrived to the most friendly, local bar in town. The staff is always amazing and every time we stop by, we feel like we have arrived home. The drinks are amazing as well!
Early History of The Speakeasy
In 1920, the Prohibition rum-runner Raul Vasquez purchased the home. Raul was well like by the community. He made many trips to Cuba to bring back as much liquor as he could. Raul served his contraband from the speakeasy located in the back. He called the place, “The Florence Club”. Since he was away, a lot, he patrons used the honor system and, according to Raul, “no one stole a single bottle”.
“The Florence Club” was not a large place. It had a counter, a shelf behind containing bottled goods, eight chairs and a bench. There was also a white marble slab, 14 x 18 inches, which customers wrote down their tabs. Once the customer paid the tab was erased and new one was started.
During Prohibition, some enforcement officers guarded and protected those who were rum-runners, but were otherwise law-abiding citizens. These people were chivalrous and were nothing like the other rum-runners who were grim and felonious characters. It was said that Raul was one of those protected by the enforcement officers.
The Balcony Balustrade
The balcony balustrade is what makes this home very unique in town. The balustrade has rum and wine bottles as well as hearts, diamonds, spades and clubs from Spanish playing cards. This was the advertisement for “The Florence Club” located in the back. It is unknown why he didn’t choose to have the balustrade to be made in Key West. Instead it was made in Sagua la Grande, Cuba. According to his daughter, her mother was quite upset when he brought it back because he had filled the cargo area with the balustrade instead of liquor.
Raul and his family
Raul was born in Tampa on August 21, 1890 and died in Key West on December 10, 1957. He came to Key West with his parents when he was a child. He was a “cigar selector” and worked in the Gato factory for many years.
At twenty-one, he married Concepcion Magrinat Pellon who was nineteen at the time. She had come to Key West with her family from the Canary Islands. They had only one child, Marla Onella born March, 1920. She married Ernest Betancourt. Marla taught music at the Covent of Mary Immaculate until her retirement.
Raul was active in the “underground” movement in Cuba opposing the dictator Gerardo Machado. He was a friend of, and supporter of, Fulgencio Batista who led the revolution which deposed Machado’s successor in 1933.
Early Key West
In 1900, forty percent of employed persons in Key West listed their occupation as cigar making. The town’s population in 1910 was 19,945 … keep in mind, at this time Miami’s population was only 5,471. By the time the real estate bubble had popped and the Great Depression had hit, Key West’s population was down to 12,831.
Key West today
Today, Key West is always busy with tourists, festivals and locals enjoying the year round perfect weather and tropical setting. If you need a great place to stay, at a very reasonable daily rate, check out The Speakeasy Inn. If you are already in town, don’t forget to stop by The Rum Bar to enjoy a world famous Rum Runner!
(credit: speakeasyinn.com, keywesthistoricmarkertour.org)