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Saying Goodbye To Tobacco Road, Miami's Oldest Liquor License

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Michael Scott Sheerin
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This past Saturday, close to 4,000 people flocked to Tobacco Road, the bar and restaurant with the oldest liquor license in Miami. The venue hosted its "Last Call" party, closing its doors after 102 years. 

A line formed outside of the front door. You had to get your ID past Eugene Remy, bouncer there for the last 22 years, who calls this place his "house."

Standing in line the view was a glowing neon sign above the entrance that read, "Tobacco Road Liquor Bar 'Til 5 A.M."

"This is one of the few places in Miami where you can just wear your T-shirt and jeans," said Michelle Yan, regular customer for the last two years. 

Frank Sabater, 46, has been coming to Tobacco Road since he was 18 years old.

"It doesn't matter who you are, what race or color, creed, how tall, fat, short or skinny you are," he says. "Everybody came to Tobacco Road and had a good time."

Mark Weiser has been booking talent at Tobacco Road for about 30 years now. He says it's really always been about the music. 

"There's a long list of legends -- true legends -- that have played here," Weiser says. 

He listed John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, David Bromberg and Sun Ra, to name a few. Gabriela Amuchastegy, a 10-year customer, recalls a celebrity encounter. 

"I met Slash from Guns 'n' Roses," she said. "I met him one time at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I was playing hookie from work and he was here."

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Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN
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WLRN
People were shoulder-to-shoulder at the upstairs cabaret.

On the last night, the indoor bar and tables were overflowing with people. A DJ played salsa music inside the restaurant, the upstairs cabaret hosted live music and a second stage for musical performances was out back, just past the crowded patio bar. 

Getting around required agility -- not an ideal event for claustrophobes. People from all around the world flew in to get closure with the building. 

"I just arrived today from Spain at 4 o'clock for the party, for the very last night of Tobacco Road," said Tony Mira. 

He worked at the venue for 13 years, went from delivery guy to bartender. He learned English here, he says.

Eric Ward, another alum, also flew in from Maryland. He served drinks here for 12 years, and noticed the bar's changing neighborhood.

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WLRN
High-rise buildings and construction surround Tobacco Road. But it doesn't seem to bother the customers as they watch musician Eric Vick perform on the outdoor stage.

"Gigantic skyscraper buildings that represent Miami progress," said Ward. "They are literally surrounding Tobacco Road."

He's not the only one to point out the construction.

"Everything new that's going up is sort of like New York," says Annie Batista. For two years, she's enjoyed having a beer, listening to the music and relaxing with her friends here.

For regulars like Brian Wollard, who's been coming for the last quarter-century, losing the bar won't be an easy transition.

"I'll be sad, because you always sort of thought it would always be here," says Wollard.

But it doesn't necessarily have to end yet. Joel Rivera is general manger and has worked at the bar for 15 years. He is trying to buy the "Tobacco Road" name. Rivera hopes to reopen the venue at a new location a few blocks away within one year.

"We're gonna rise from the ashes like a phoenix," said Rivera.

Related: Tobacco Road Announce New Location