I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since I moved to Miami Beach, back to a time when J.Lo and Shakira were hitting their mainstream stride, and all things glittery and glam were the norm.
It was around the same time I was a South Beach newbie that Purdy Lounge also arrived on the scene. I recently came across this article
from the Miami New Times which not only reminded me how 13 years came and went, but how the now legendary Purdy remains my favorite place to go to in SoBe.
Do a Google Maps search and the keywords you’ll get for Purdy are “lava lamps, vibe, reggae night, and ladies night.” I’d add to that, “unpretentious, raunchy, unadulterated fun.” During my time as a Miami resident, I honestly didn’t go there very often. Not because it wasn’t a cool place, but because after working in food & beverage (i.e. “The Industry”) in South Beach night after night, the LAST thing I wanted to do was go out even if it was to a cool place with a hip vibe like Purdy. During my various incarnations as hostess, cocktail waitress, food runner and promotional model, I just wanted to fly like a bat out of hell and retreat to my apartment in North Bay Village, away from the silliness. Once in awhile I did go out with my restaurant peeps to places like Nikki Beach, Blue, Ted’s Hideaway or Lost Weekend to make fun of the tourists and shoot the shit with other industry folk. I remember hearing about this new place away from the main drag of Ocean Drive that was laid back, played good music and had cheap drinks. It was being touted as the next industry/local-friendly bar. I liked Purdy — it was a great place to go to on a weeknight after being treated like dirt by celebrities, socialites and the egomaniac head chef. Mismatched couches that probably belonged at my grandmother’s house invited me to plop down while I watched my friends play pool.
After a few years of island life I settled into Coconut Grove, part of Miami’s mainland. South Beach was seemingly a world away and my social visits were now reserved for special occasions that merited the 13-mile, 20-minute drive. Anyone who lives and works in South Florida (over the age of 30) will tell you, “If it isn’t convenient, it’s not worth the trip.” It wasn’t until I moved away from Miami that Purdy truly became my version of home away from home. Staying in South Beach visiting friends during freezing New York winters was just what the doctor ordered, and Purdy was a part of the remedy. No longer a local and definitely not a tourist, I didn’t want to have to figure out how to get my name on a list or wait in line to have a good time. No sir, I was on vacation and didn’t want to waste time on any of that. I wanted to go off the beaten path without leaving the beach. I faintly remembered Purdy and wanted to check it out after all these years. Going back to Purdy was like going back in time — everything was the same, from the concrete floors to the worn out sofas and coffee tables decorated with tea light candles. I immediately was in a better mood than before and ready to have some fun. Thursday nights are Ladies’ Night where my girlfriends and I were treated to strong drinks in clear plastic cups served by bar staff who didn’t give attitude to the swarm of females thirsty for a deal. The main bar area had the right combination of dark to light ratio — dark enough to be ready for the night ahead, and light enough to see everyone around you and notice the lava lamps and artwork on the walls. What I didn’t notice until after repeated visits was a crazy horse head hanging off of the ceiling by a power cord to one of the bright purple pillars near the bar. How it got there, I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a story behind Mr. Ed with a birds-eye view of the scene.
Well drink in hand, the music varied but was always good — old school, hip-hop, reggae (on Mondays) and everything related in between could be heard. If I was tired of a song, I could just pop into the other room, separated by soundproof doors and a dark hallway. In seconds I was transported to a completely different scene, replete with its own bar, DJ and palm tree wallpaper homage to Scarface. Back and forth, drink after drink, song after song, my girlfriends and I always ended up near the main bar, sandwiched between the bartenders and the purple pillars, resting our drinks nearby. This was our spot regardless of space or time — we claimed it, squeezed into it and it was always there for us even after several months’ hiatus. We stood there, sipping away, watching the scene unfold before us as we quickly became a part of it. Guys chatted us up, bought us nicer drinks and danced with us while trying to sneak in a kiss or at least get a phone number that wasn’t fake. Make out sessions were happening everywhere, especially on those comfy couches. There was no shortage of cheaters and horny Europeans. When we needed a little break from it all, we’d head to one of the unisex bathrooms so darkly lit with one red light bulb discouraging women to enter in twos and threes to check their makeup. Ladies, if you didn’t check your makeup before going to Purdy, you’re out of luck. While the bathroom ambiance might have discouraged makeup and hair checks, it certainly attracted the inner red-light district buried in our seedy selves. Purdy’s bathrooms are famously known for bathroom sex, so much so that the owner installed metal brackets around the sinks so that they wouldn’t break again.
So who actually goes to Purdy Lounge? It truly is a locals bar for the 20- to 30-something Miami Beach crowd who live and work there, peppered with the occasional tourist, business traveler or random celebrity. I wouldn’t call it a ‘best-kept secret,’ since plenty of out-of-towners who don’t want the typical South Beach scene find it. Its motto is, “No attitude. No cover. No bullshit.” Located on Purdy Avenue, you could walk right past it and not know that it’s there. When it first opened, the stretch near 18th Street and Bay Road was pretty quiet and off the tourist radar with some residential buildings and local plumbing, auto and appliance part businesses.
Fast forward to present day and the landscape of this area has changed, expanding the Lincoln Road-type scene with a new retail development named Sunset Harbour, filling up with hipster coffee houses like Panther and the reincarnated Ice Box Café. As new restaurants and bars pop up, I wonder how this might affect Purdy and its low-key vibe, if at all. What sets Purdy apart from the rest is that it lives by its motto and doesn’t try to ‘be’ anything more than what it is. The drinks are good, prices reasonable, music danceable, and it’s just downright fun. A little naughty, somewhat raunchy and always sexy without having to be glamorous just shows me that Purdy is a place like no other in South Beach and a place where I’ll always have my spot near the bar. It’s a place where you can play Jenga with your friends and grab a free lollipop at the bar, listen to a live Reggae band on a Monday night, play pool, flirt and dance the night away and maybe even hook up by night’s end. It’s a place where the guy at the door always remembers me when he checks my New York State driver’s license even if a year goes by. It’s a place where the only time I had to wait in line was on Halloween and the fun was just beginning outside. It’s really everyone’s place and it just feels like my place
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