Long before the release of Kenny Chesney’s hit song, Flora-Bama, the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package & Oyster Bar was already a flourishing hotspot for local live entertainment. Extending between Orange Beach and Perdido Key, locals and visitors alike were already familiar with the mecca if not for its music, food, and all-around good times, but for the unique way the facility straddled the Alabama/Florida line. As history has it, the national icon, ranked #1 Best Beach Bar in the United States and #14 Best Beach Bar in the WORLD, came to pass when Florida gave Alabama a two-mile stretch of beachfront property in return for the construction of the Perdido Pass Bridge.
Home of the legendary Bushwacker, Flora-Bama works tirelessly to ensure guests enjoy their experience, “leave safe and happy and return again with new friends.” Although times have certainly changed during the last fifty years, the Flora-Bama has kept pace with emerging trends and musical talents. Country, rock, dance, and beach music play on five stages with 11-14 daily musical appearances. Revelers enjoy areas to dance, both shaded and full-sun spaces to relax, beach access and age-appropriate areas for children. A wide range of menu items are available from one of the three on-property restaurants: Flora-Bama Yacht Club, Flora-Bama Ole’ River Grill, and Flora-Bama Oyster Bar. Locals gather for Sunday church services under the tent, to watch televised sports at Ole’ River Grill, and to enjoy waterfront fun, including water sports rentals, at the Flora-Bama Marina.
Despite multiple hurricanes and economic ups and downs, the party continues, and the music still plays. The infamous Interstate Mullet Toss is more than an excuse to toss a dead fish across the state line. It is now one of the largest beach parties along the coast with hotel bookings often taking place a full year in advance. Need we even mention the Mr. Mullet Hot Body and Miss Mullet Toss Bikini Contests during the event?
Flora-Bama’s Frank Brown International Songwriters Music Festival touted as one of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society, takes place each November. Nearly 200 songwriters from around the world perform and share stories about their songs during the annual event. With historical roots, the eleven-day Festival is in its 35th year. Lynn Oldshue, contributing author for The Southern Rambler, once wrote:
And so the music began over 40 years ago when Joe Gilchrist bought the small Flora-Bama Package and Liquor Store and hired singer/songwriters to play in the shack in the back. “It was the people of the Gulf Coast who made it possible for songwriters to play here,” [said] Jimmy Louis, one of Flora-Bama’s first songwriters. “They were willing to listen to the songs we wrote and listen to any genre. That is why songwriters from Nashville and other places gravitated down here. It wasn’t just about the Flora-Bama, it was about the people in the audience.”
No stranger to community outreach, Flora-Bama lives up to its motto to “always be responsive and sensitive to the human dignity of others.” Portions of the proceeds from many larger events are returned to the community in support of various charities. As a generous supporter of the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, registration fees from the Annual Beach Run / Walk for America’s Warriors are donated in support of the organization. Additionally, Flora-Bama also serves by collecting items from the surrounding community to aid those impacted by natural disasters well known to the Gulf Coast.
With strong ties to the community and steeped in tradition, Flora-Bama remains a top Gulf Coast destination for musical entertainment. It is a place where legends are born and barroom stories, some true and some not, are passed down. A place where the music never stops, it is known worldwide by the young and young-at-heart. It is truly a local treasure with something for everyone.