Broward News

Grady’s Bar Sold for $2 Million to Owner of Flashback Diner

A bar without $12 cocktails, iPads, or valet parking is a rarity these days in South Florida. So Grady’s Bar and Grill — a family-owned Fort Lauderdale watering hole that hasn't gotten fancy since opening 76 years ago — is special. But as the Real Deal reported yesterday, the bar and surrounding property (which includes three commercial buildings on four parcels) have been sold to developers. 

Steve Hyatt of Berger Commercial Realty represented the sellers. He told New Times that the new owners intended to "renovate the bar and come up with a new concept to appeal to the 3,500 new people moving in to the south of the river. Maybe long-term, in the future as the area matures, they might add some residential component, but for now, it will stay a bar and restaurant."

But don't worry, says Toula Lazarou-Amanna, the new owner, who bought it through her LLC, Highland Equity Investments. There are no plans of demolishing Grady's. Amanna says she has plans to spruce it up, take advantage of the back area, and put more food on the menu. She already owns the Flashback Diner, with locations in Hallandale, Davie, and Boca Raton, and the Deerfield Beach Cafe on the city's International Fishing Pier.  

“I own restaurants, not condos,” Amanna says. “I want to enhance the existing buildings and create a nice outdoor seating area overlooking the park in the back.”

Amanna says their idea would be to create something like a hip food court. The three buildings will all serve different kinds food, and they will share an outdoor seating area. "It's been decades since they were renovated,” she notes. She says there might even be food trucks and live music. She hopes to attract families and children. 

Inside Grady's, Amanna only wants to add much-needed upgrades to the interior — so far, that includes banning indoor smoking and adding air conditioning. She says she loves and wants to keep the current staff.

But the name must change. 

“It will be Bar and Grill," Amanna says. "Unfortunately, we weren't able to buy the name in the sale." She envisions it "to be 50 percent food, 50 percent liquor." 

The Sun Sentinel reports that Grady Copeland had hitchhiked from Georgia to Fort Lauderdale on the back of a vegetable truck in 1933 and bought the property on which Grady's sits for $1,200. He opened the bar on New Year's Eve 1940. 

Copeland has since died. So has his son, William, so now Copeland’s daughter Judy More runs the business. As rents increased and new luxury condos sprouted up downtown, Grady’s became a refuge, a tiny piece of old Fort Lauderdale seemingly immune to the times.

Grady’s is simple, a no-frills dive with the most interesting patrons —  typically with a weathered Fort Lauderdale look, lost under a cloud of Marlboro smoke and sipping on a Bud Lite. Bartenders are on a first-name basis with most people curled around the bar. It has a wooden porch, drop ceilings, fake-wood paneling, and cigarette machines. Its jukebox has songs that haven’t aired on the radio in decades. It's unpretentious, and no one is afraid to break out dancing by the pool table. It's dingy but clean, affordable —and endearingly, cash only.

We crowned the place best neighborhood bar in Fort Lauderdale back in 2006. When we went on the hunt for a one-dollar beer in South Florida in 2013, we were surprised not to find it at Grady’s. But we did find some of the most interesting folks in South Florida — the types who would never dream of setting foot in a luxury condo or retail shop.

It’s hard not to meet anyone from Fort Lauderdale who doesn’t have a Grady’s story. 

On Facebook this morning, Max Woods wrote upon hearing the news: “I literally saw a guy get killed in this place. I'll never forget it. Other than that... One of the true dive bars in Ft Lauderdale. Ahhh the memories. Lol.”

John Duffy wrote: “I made an emergency pitstop for a bottle of water with my son who was very very very thirsty. I didn't have cash on me, so they gave it to me."

Debra Anne Fender called it her “Home away from home.”

RIP, Grady's. Welcome, Bar and Grill.
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson