The Green Parrot, Key West Florida — Photo courtesy of Amber NolanWhile tourists swarm Sloppy Joe’s on Duval Street, those in-the-know head to Whitehead Street, home to the legendary Green Parrot. The watering hole has roots that go back to 1890, when it was a grocery store where impromptu jam sessions would crop up at all hours. During World War II, it was a hangout for sailors, in the 70s it was home to hippies and vagabonds, followed by pink-shrimp fisherman, and today the bar remains an outlet for local bands and other talented musicians that play to a motley group of Conchs and travelers.
A strange jellyfish-like parachute hangs above the bar, a classic jukebox hosts a collection of CDs, stale popcorn is free to patrons, and there is a decent selection of draft beers at reasonable prices. A collection of Key West’s nomads may be seen across the street listening to the music from afar in what has become a low-cost tradition for them. The owner hand-picks the bands, and his diverse musical taste allows for different genres of entertainers to perform including rock, jazz, brass bands, soul, funk – you name it.
Gypsy Jazz as the Green Parrot — Photo courtesy of Amber NolanThe dive bar certainly has character, and so do its patrons who come to soak up the sounds and the spirit of the saloon. With so much “progress” going on in Key West, little has changed at the Green Parrot and that in itself is a refreshing reason to pop in. The essence of the place is that anything goes, which mirrors the draw of the island itself.
While some complain (or snivel, as the Green Parrot calls it) that the staff treats tourists differently, I personally have not noticed this. If they are a bit protective of the place, they have good reason. It’s hard to maintain authenticity in a town that caters to tourists, but the Green Parrot pulls it off and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.