Longform

Churchill's Pub: An Oral History

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Rat Bastard: This was an old neighborhood, so you still had these old guys that used to work for the phone company, electrical company. They'd retire, and they just drank.

Daniels: My favorite customer to this day is Howard Quinlan, much more than these hot little girls with great legs and pretty faces. He was in charge of maintenance at the Jewish home. He would do odd jobs for me. But he would never let me give him money. He would only allow me to take him for steak and beer. Another was this little woman called Kitty Hobin. She probably weighed about 75 pounds. Small, wizened, 80 years old. She used to come in every day. Always short of money. So I'd often lend her 80 bucks per month.

By the mid-'80s, Daniels started booking bands when a few rock 'n' rollers and punks happened upon the pub.

Pickett: The Miami music scene had lost its latest club, Flynn's, around '83. There had been 150 to 200 fans every weekend.

Rat Bastard: That was the legendary punk rock place. But when Flynn's went out, Dave had the whole ball rolling. All those bands started coming to Churchill's. I didn't really go there. I'd snuck in to get a beer. But one day, some punk rockers like Todd Jenkins and Malcolm Tent, they walked in and Dave was like, "Oh yeah, I used to book Manfred Mann and Eric Clapton and all these people." So, they're like "Wow!" He's like, "Would you like to do music here?" And they go, "Yeah, we'll play right on the fucking floor."

Daniels: People tell me that they played Churchill's, beside the front door, before we knocked through the wall. But I don't think so. There were dartboards there. They would've ended up with a dart in the forehead.

Malcolm Tent, founder of Trash American Style record store: There was this little expatriate community of Brits, and they would play darts and eat their kidney pies and stuff. It wasn't really a hub of frenetic activity.

Rat Bastard: I came in here, and I says, "Hey, man, I've got a band. Myrin & the 2 Wotz," my high school band. We played this show and all these college kids showed up, over 150, maybe 200 people. Dave was the fucking bartender. He almost had a fucking heart attack 'cause it was three deep of these crazy fuckers with pitchers, going, "Ehhhhh! Come on, man! Refill it!"

Daniels: About that same time, Charlie Pickett came in to see me. So we sat at the bar to talk, because I'd seen Charlie play and I'd liked his band... After an hour, I said, "Are you going to come and play for us?" And he said, "Oh yeah, I'll come." ... And the first time that Charlie played, we had 250 people.

Pickett: When Churchill's started doing music, we'd go in there for sound check and we'd annoy the last of the regulars, because I don't know an amp setting below 10. These guys would shake their heads, finish their beers, and then split.

Tent: I remember specifically there was an uneasy sort of coexistence between us and the Churchill's regulars, who just wanted to come in on a weekend night and eat bangers and mash. We'd be there at the door, trying to collect money for the band, and they didn't quite understand why they had to pay to get into their Purple Hearts' bar.

Rat Bastard: Over time, the neighborhood changed and there were less drinkers.

Daniels: The old-timers would die. Literally.

By the early '90s, a growing Churchill's scene incubated essential Miami acts like Harry Pussy, Kreamy 'Lectric Santa, Holy Terrors, and the Goods. Rat Bastard's regular Thursday-night shows were key.

Rat Bastard: Dave gave me Thursday nights. Shit, it had to be '88, maybe.

Daniels: We've had this sort of very special relationship with Rat. Early days, Rat was wonderful for Churchill's. He looked after all the sound equipment, for which he really wasn't getting paid.

Brian Franklin, singer/songwriter and co-creator of Hearing Damage: The Rat Opera: The brilliance of Dave to sit back and let noise develop. Let Rat drive away crowds, before people realized this is something that will attract crowds. Let the scene catch up with Rat instead of forcing Rat to fit into the scene. I don't know if it was brilliant from a business standpoint, but in the long term, it worked out. It certainly worked out for the artists, and it certainly worked out for the art.

Tent: Whether Dave understood or cared about any of that or not is really open for debate, but the fact that he just allowed it to happen was enough.

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Liz Tracy and S. Pajot