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A public notice hangs outside Treasure Trove Food & Spirits.EXPAND
A public notice hangs outside Treasure Trove Food & Spirits.
Photo by Jesse Scott

Fort Lauderdale's Best Dive Bar Shut Down to Make Way for Boutique Hotel

The coolest bar in the known free world closed for good over the weekend. Sure, that was a title the International World Famous Treasure Trove ("IWF Treasure Trove" for short) bestowed upon itself, but the 23-year-old dive a block from the ocean was at the very least the coolest bar in Fort Lauderdale.

Hundreds of people showed up for its last night this past Saturday. They spilled onto the sidewalk and across the street to the parking lot. Some, anticipating the crowds, brought coolers of beer for themselves. Much of the bric-a-brac that had covered the yellowed walls — black-and-white fishing photographs; a sign that declared, “If Assholes Could Fly, This Place Would Be an Airport”; and faded, '90s-era Fort Lauderdale Air & Sea Show banners — was gone. In its place were messages scrawled in marker: “Treasure Trove forever” and “Gonna miss this place.”

By 9:30, the beer had run out and the toilets were near overflowing in the bathrooms, which were gross even on a normal night. Partiers left and returned with 24-packs from 7-Eleven. Two dudes in pirate costumes stood on a truck and bonged beers out of a headless, bikini-clad mannequin that had stood in a corner for years. Onlookers cheered them on in the street and from the bar’s wide-open windows.

It was a fitting sendoff for the Trove, a debaucherous Fort Lauderdale beach holdover with cheap beer, no air conditioning, and an always-rowdy crowd.

Jeff Rudd, a Fort Lauderdale native and Cardinal Gibbons High School grad, along with his brother and cousin, opened the bar in 1995 with $50,000 from his grandma, Mimi Picton. He hung on the wall a goliath grouper she had caught, over a photo of the catch.

Fort Lauderdale's Best Dive Bar Shut Down to Make Way for Boutique Hotel
Photo by Brittany Shammas

"She was tough," he told the Sun Sentinel in 2015, when the bar marked its 20th year. "I told her I was going to put that fish and that picture in the bar. The reason I'm open 20 years is because of her picture and that fish."

The bar attracted an eclectic mix: yachties in T-shirts bearing their ship’s name, secret millionaires, sunburned Midwestern bachelorette parties, and, one night, an old guy named Pudd who propped a war photo of himself on a table and paid for everyone’s tab. Weirdly, strangers talked to one another at the Trove, and sometimes they drunkenly belted out jukebox songs together.

There’d been a closure scare in 2012. Rudd and the landlord almost didn’t reach an agreement on rent, and regulars spilled into the street the night that was supposed to be the bar’s last. But then a new agreement was reached, and a black-and-white photo taken on the almost-last day was framed and hung on the wall.

This time, there was no last-minute reprieve. The building that houses the Treasure Trove (along with the Gym, a rooftop workout spot) was sold last year for $18.7 million to Graintefl LLC, which is razing it to erect a boutique hotel (because that’s one thing South Florida needs more of). Maybe it’ll have a bar too — a place with gleaming floors, fancy wallpaper, and an anonymous crowd.

Rudd initially looked for a new home for his bar but eventually decided it wasn't possible.

“You can’t move this place," he told the Triton.

During the Trove’s last months in business, copies of the lease termination notice were taped to the walls, and a whiteboard admonished the city for approving the project: “City Council Members, when you cut down the last tree, you will finally realize that you can’t eat money!!” it read. “Stop building!!!”

Saturday, the whiteboard carried a new message: “Thanks for the memories! We will miss you all!!”

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