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The First Bars

Someone asked: “Did bars come to San Pedro before the Banks?” Before I answer this question I want to say that the bars of yester years operated under tighter regulations than today and certainly did not include some of these activities that I hear we have today like destroying the tables, monkey climbing on a pole and demonstrations against the heat by taking off all the clothes. (I hear about this; have not gone to confirm)

EL Casino operated in San Pedro in the 1930’s was located in the heart of the village at present day Sands Hotel. It was owned by an influential villager and known mostly for its great dances held there. In those dances men had to place a handkerchief in their hands in order to hold a lady’s hands while dancing. And no man was ever permitted to dance on top of a table, no matter how many drinks he had consumed. Ladies were only offered soft drinks and sweet biscuits.

The first bar that I can recall from the 1950’s was Daddy’s Club. It was owned by our Mayor’s dad, Mr. Gildardo “Daddy” Paz and was very popular for its dance hall. Of course it was fitted with large vertically opened windows that allowed for the mothers and aunts who chaperoned the ladies to the dance to be able to enjoy the spectacle of the dance, which was not only a dance but a public entertainment. Besides the special dances of the season, weddings and quinceaños (like sweet sixteen) were also held at Daddy’s Club.

Now bars in those days only opened until 9 p.m. and if you did not close punctually, the policeman did so with a scolding and threat. On Sundays, the bar had to close down at 12 noon and reopen at 4 p.m. This helped men to stop drinking and go home at noon or to lessen the number of hours engaged in drinking on a Sunday, which has always been a holiday and family day. Later on Daddy’s Club offered pool tables which became an Island favorite. Ironically, when Daddy’s held a dance, it was from 8 p.m. to 12 midnight, (no extension hours) while today the action begins at midnight. I remember also that it used to be a law that a bartender could not sell you any more “booze” once he noticed that a man was drunk.

In the 1960’s Marino’s Club opened its doors as a bar, dance hall and pool table hall. Due to its very large dance hall and an open rooftop hall, it became another Island favorite. This spot became another Island favorite due to Tio Polo’s friendliness and his exquisite conch and octopus ceviche.

And just about the same time ,Mr. Ovidio Guerrero, who was a skin diver opened Skin Diver’s Club at the same corner of Martha’s Hotel/Island Vibes. It was during the era when skin diving was at its highest peak and there you could listen to the biggest anecdotes like a lobster measuring 6 feet from tail to tip of antenna or the diver that could skin dive 50 feet and remain underwater for three minutes. It became very popular mostly for young people because of its purple lights and florescent colors as well as its jukebox which was always up to date with the latest by its bartender, Mr. Sacasa Gough. He was an intellectual who could keep a good conversation on any topic for long hours.

Up until these days liquor or beer was never sold in stores, gift shops etc. With good common sense and the cooperation of the police, bars were well under control and never the risk of someone jumping upon your table, taking off her clothes and dancing among your beer bottles. Good clean bars 25 years ago!

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

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