Video: Bimini Bay Bar Is Fort Lauderdale's Dirty Little Secret (NSFW)

Mo is something special. The 30-something blond bartender grabs a fresh Bud Light from behind the bar, reaches back, and sticks the business end of the bottle between her butt cheeks. She tenses for a moment and then yanks the bottle out with a pop.

"Drink!" she yells, slamming down the freshly opened beer onto the bar. A patron quickly snatches it, not daring to disobey, and downs the whole thing.

Moments later, he winces and asks, "Did I just drink an ass beer?" Yes. Yes, he did.

Meanwhile, Mo has moved on, bouncing around in nothing but a white tank top and underwear. She’s opening a beer with her cleavage now, again slamming the bottle down and ordering customers to chug. She repeats the process once more, this time with her crotch.

It’s Friday night at Bimini Bay Bar — a living, breathing memorial to the Fort Lauderdale of years past, tucked tightly in the shadow of the Fort Lauderdale airport, far from gentrification or anything organic, a dive where folks don’t think twice before drinking an ass beer. 

The place is tiny. Patrons have to turn sideways to squeeze through certain parts of the bar. Despite the hardcore pornography playing on two TVs in the top corner of the room, all eyes are on Mo, and that's just the way she likes it. She's the center of attention, an all-star in a lineup of rotating bartenders whose schedule is posted on the wall. Mo has Fridays, a prime shift. And it's hers for a reason.

But there is one person not watching the Mo show. Tommy Chiarella, the 58-year-old owner of Bimini Bay Bar, has seen it before. So he stands in the corner of his establishment, sipping a beer and chomping on a half-smoked cigar. He bought the place on July 7, 2007. Now he is the patriarch of a very dysfunctional family.

“There’s two things,” Chiarella says when asked what makes Bimini Bay Bar special. “Familiarity, and people are comfortable there.” After a pause he adds, “And it’s always fun to have something to look at.”
Bimini Bay Bar — its soul, at least — has been around for a while, just not always in the same place or under the same name. Before today's version of Bimini Bay Bar existed, the place was known as Charlie's Rustic Bay Inn. Charlie's was in a warehouse stuffed between two auto body shops around Prospect Road and Dixie Highway in Oakland Park. It was, allegedly, Bimini Bay Bar on steroids.

“It was basically the same thing it is now, only bigger. And they had a bunch of cops hanging out there, so they got away with more than we got away with,” Chiarella remembers.

Chiarella used to pop into Charlie's every now and then. But one day, it just wasn't there anymore, vanished like a mirage. Chiarella had heard that the bar relocated, but no one could tell him where exactly. It wasn't until Chiarella was searching for property investments in 2007 that he was reunited with it. He saw a bar for sale in a newspaper ad and went to investigate. “As soon as I walked in, I knew what it was,” Chiarella remembers.

“I couldn’t find it for years. I went to it one day and it was gone. Someone bought the building and renovated and kicked them out.”

But there it was right before Chiarella’s eyes, his own personal El Dorado, just with a lot less gold and a lot more bacteria. “It was a mess,” Chiarella says. “The roof was leaking so bad that you couldn’t sit in half the stools because they had buckets on them.”

“It’s much easier to go arrest single moms who are flashing their boobs than to go over on Sistrunk and arrest crackheads.”

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Because it was in such bad shape, Chiarella was able to negotiate his way into a deal, and – a day before the bar was supposed to close – Chiarella bought it. “I knew all it needed was somebody to take care of it,” Chiarella says.

And he wasted no time. The next day, roofers were working on repairing the Swiss-cheese roof. Chiarella fired all the bartenders but one, then got to work on assembling a new staff.

“I started calling my old friends from when I was in the strip-club business. All the girls that I still was in contact with that used to dance that didn’t feel like dancing anymore I started hiring as bartenders,” Chiarella says. Though, even with his 40-plus years' experience in the bar business, the early days of Bimini Bay were rough, and Chiarella now found himself trying to tame the horny lion he had just adopted.

Thanks to a Fort Lauderdale law that prohibits nudity in establishments that serve alcohol, cops arrested Chiarella and his staff four times in the first three years. Three times his bartenders were taken to the station. Chiarella was arrested once and spent 25 hours in jail. “It was all just a way for the city to exploit revenue from me,” he  says. “It’s much easier to go arrest single moms who are flashing their boobs than to go over on Sistrunk and arrest crackheads.”

Chiarella thinks a rival bar owner ratted him out because he was stealing all its customers. But eventually, the police visits stopped and Chiarella was able to get somewhat of a handle on his bartenders.
The bartenders are undoubtedly the main attraction of Bimini Bay. Aside from actually showing up to work – something Chiarella still struggles with getting them to do – the owner says his bartenders need to look good in the Bimini Bay uniform, which he says is “as little as legally possible.” He tries to hire local porn stars, so he can play their movies on the TVs during their shifts. He can rattle off stories of nights involving Ping-Pong balls and shit you will definitely not see at a TGI Fridays. Now he tells his bartenders to “keep it legal and keep it interesting.”

There is perhaps no one better at doing this than Mo, and any regular will tell you that if you’re going to pick one day to visit Bimini Bay, pick a day when Mo is working.

Chiarella found her after calling up a friend from the Booby Trap and asking if he could think of any girls to send his way. His friend said he had just the one. “She came down, and she did good,” Chiarella says. “It’s going to be hard to replace Mo.”

But sadly he’ll have to. At the end of this month, Mo will end her residency at Bimini Bay Bar, and hang up her uniform for good.

“Fort Lauderdale decided they wanted to be Disney Land."

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Chiarella says he has no shortage of bartender applicants, but finding the right girl – the perfect girl – is damned tough.

Stepping into Bimini Bay Bar is a bit like stepping into a time machine. The hole-in-the-wall joint provides a quick and dirty history of ‘80s Lauderdale — a place Chiarella sorely misses. “I’ve been here since ’82, and I worked all the old bars on the strip,” Chiarella says. Things are undoubtedly different now, and it seems the places people like Chiarella can go to fit in are shrinking. In the case of Bimini Bay Bar or Charlie’s Rustic Bay – whatever you want to call it – that’s literally true.

“Fort Lauderdale decided they wanted to be Disney Land and they were gonna make it so all the old spring breakers who were married now with kids and grandkids could come there with their families.”

Some people think of this change as a good thing, but Chiarella isn’t one of them. And the other folks sitting around Bimini Bay Bar on that Friday night, watching Mo light up the room with her dexterous vagina – they don’t think so either.

But for now, Chiarella is living it up in his slice of Fort Lauderdale paradise he built for himself. He will stand his ground, even if that ground keeps getting smaller and smaller.

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