A lone guitarist sitting under red and blue lights belted out classic rock tunes as people sidled up to the neon bar at Johnny Mango's Tiki Bar and Grill in Jupiter to catch one last buzz before Hurricane Matthew hit the coast.
The spot promised patrons it would stay open until 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning, even as the storm swirled offshore. It was welcome news for many who spent part of the night driving around town looking for an open restaurant.
The place's dining room, lit by hanging orange lamps, was filled with fishing poles and frayed ropes. In the center of the room around a long table, a dozen 20-somethings munched on French fries while playing a game of quarters. Nearby, a clean-cut family dined under the light of a dozen neon beer signs, filling up on blackened mahi sandwiches and buffalo chicken tenders.
Every hurricane is a celebration for Paul Caillouette, one of the customers hanging around until Johnny Mango's final call before shutting down. And the last dozen or so times a major storm has threatened Florida, the 63-year-old and his friends gathered for what he called the "C'mon, I wanna blow you" party.
"It's because of the wind," he said while tossing back beers with a half-dozen friends, and not even a Category 5 storm could prevent the party. The neon-beer-lit bar was one of only a few left open in Jupiter, as most shuttered earlier that evening to prepare for the storm.
Earlier in the day, Caillouette said, he surrounded his nearby home with sandbags and moved as much as possible off of the house's first floor. "They're saying the storm surge is going to be three to five above land — normally that's sea level, so it's got us concerned," he added.
That surge seems to mean all the difference during this storm. Caillouette said he's been through four storms where the eye passed over where he was staying, drinking the weather away. "The one thing I remember is seeing the stars through the eye," he said.
Meanwhile, the five rental properties he owns across Palm Beach County may be in for a tough time as well. He's opted not to put impact-resistant glass on any of them, saying it's saved him $200,000 over the past decade. All of that, it seems, could be undone in the hours ahead. "We'll just have to see what happens," Caillouette said.
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