The now closed Big John’s Tavern brought more to downtown night life than many could imagine. This bar, situated off the beaten path of the bar scene at the corner of East Bay Street and Pinckney Street, at 251 East Bay to be precise (which no one at Big John’s was), was definitely known as the local “dive” bar around the Market Street area.
Frequented by many employees in the tourism industry, namely the horse and carriage industry, this dive bar was a place for these hospitality workers to unwind after a long day of dumb questions by tourists.
Opened in 1955, it was one of the oldest bars in the city. It closed for a few months at the end of 2013 and reopened at the beginning of 2014 with some major renovations. But, after only about a year, Big John’s suffered a fire in early 2015, and the rest is history. In the early fall of 2016, Cane Rhum Bar opened where Big John’s Tavern once was, transforming this once famous dive bar into a tropical oasis of cocktails and palm trees.
It’s tough to walk by the old Big John’s Tavern and remember the underwear and bras that adorned the ceiling. It was a dive bar in every sense of the word but was a sanctuary for so many to escape the downtown trendy or fancy spots not fit for those of us who sweat outside all day attending to tourists’ every needs.
It had a popular slogan that stuck – “Come as a stranger and leave as a friend.” Cheers to the memories, Big John’s Tavern.5