The First Bars

he other day, the police were circulating a letter in which they informed the public that they would be enforcing or tightening up on some laws as it pertains to bars, specifically minors being accepted or served at bars. The letter had an attachment of the names of bars- and liquor establishments on Ambergris Caye. Fasten your seatbelt to hear the number of liquor places- 110 of them! If we have a population of approximately 7,000, this means one bar/liquor place for every 63 persons, counting men, women, senior citizens, teenagers, children and infants.

Twenty-five years ago remembers when there were 2 or 3 bars and nothing else and even those three were operated under strict control. Now, old timers remember San Pedro in the 1930's when there was one bar- El Casino. It was a large building situated in the lot belonging to Mr. George Parham of Sands Hotel. The first power plant is still standing in parts in Mr. Parham's patio. This Casino Bar was the site of many festivities and was perhaps the nucleus or center hub of activity in the old San Pedro Village. The Casino was destroyed by the hurricane of 1942, but parts of the wall and concrete floor remained even up until the 1950's. Several dances were held there up until 1961 when Hurricane Hattie completely demolished it.

In the 1950's Daddy's Club began operating at the same site of Big Daddy's today. This was perhaps one of the first bars with dance hall and some pool tables. The entire building was surrounded with large windows that were flung open to enable the mothers to come and watch the dance. In the meantime, across Daddy's was Blake's Store known as "El Comisariato." They sold liquor not to be consumed on the premises. In the 1960's Ovidio Guerrero, long before he opened Martha's Store, opened a small, but popular spot called "Skin Divers' Club." It was the first bar that had fancy paintings and fancy lights and gave the feelings of a discotheque. It too was a spot of many dances.

Around that same time in the 1960's, Luis "Chato" Nuñez opened up "Los Marinos Bar" which still exists today. First it boasted a very large rooftop covered with a "palapa" and that soon became San Pedro's number one dance spot and retained that status for many, many years even when it relocated the dance hall downstairs.

As it was understood 25 years ago, a bar was an entertainment spot and had to offer games like pool or billiards and darts as well as a dance hall. But then smaller bars with no entertainment started popping up here and there. Then up came the hotels and pretty soon there were bars at each hotel like Holiday, Fido's, Paradise, Coral Beach, Ramon's, Casa Solana, etc. Then up came the restaurants and pretty soon there were liquor counters there as well. Then came the stores and they became flooded with the desire to sell liquor. Then the gift shops started selling liquor and this "fad" has kept spreading. Even as we write some new places are being built that will operate bars. They are scattered all along the road, into remote places, near churches and near the cemetery. Twenty-five years ago wonders if there will ever-be any control to this. Will there be a stop? Will this increase crime? Will it increase entertainment? Will it increase juvenile drinking and drugs? Does anybody care? Who is in control of liquor establishments? 110 Bars! Isn't one bar for every 63 persons way too much?

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