NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. -- Many family business are handed down from generation to generation. One local business has the distinction of being the oldest of its kind in the Jacksonville area, owned by the same family for almost 8 decades. A landmark legend where people come to meet and history has been made.
It's Pete's Bar, a Neptune Beach watering hole where the smoke is thick, drinks strong and pool is always a quarter. "You get young people, old people, they all come together. It's nice," said bartender Ray Bachman.
Owned by the same family, the Jensen's, for almost 80-years Pete's Bar has a rich history. During prohibition the bar's first owner, Peter Jensen, used to sell bootleg liquor from his nearby grocery store. When prohibition ended in 1933 Pete's Bar was the first in Duval County to receive a liquor license. Peter's granddaughter, Nancy Jensen, owns the business now with her four children. Her secret to success? Change nothing. "I had one man walk in the door and say 'thank God.' And I said why are you saying that sir? He said I haven't been at the beach for 40 years. Everything has changed but Pete's hasn't changed at all," said Jensen.
Historical pictures and photos of annual events line the wall of Petes like the yearly Thanksgiving celebration. "Two blocks are totally packed with people. We've had people fly in from Colorado and California," said Jensen.
Some famous folks have bellied up to Pete's bar. "Hemingway was here one time many, many years ago. I think Jimmy Fallon was here," said Jensen.
And so was author John Grisham. He not only wrote about the bar in his book, "The Brethren," but wrote part of the book in the bar while staying at the beach. "The daytime bartender said I recognize him. I know him. He was sitting in here writing. I didn't know what he was doing. But I think we were just convenient. A convenient location for him," said Jensen.
Pete's may get the occasional celebrity but it's known for its regulars, many of whom, have been coming here for years. "30 years. Probably 35 for me," said Mike and Cindy Kemp. "I've been coming here since the 70's," said Lorna Hatistsawery. "Actually, I like to see the pictures, the history, Thanksgiving is coming up. I can't wait for Thanksgiving," said Tobie Brown.
You could say Pete's is a lived in bar, signs of wear only add to its character. The worn out linoleum floor near the ping-pong table has seen better days. And there's been more than a few relationships that began here. "Alot of people tell me that their parents met in here and got married," says Jensen. Pete's Bar. 79 years and going strong. As for the bar's future, Jensen has a teenage grandson named Pete but she says he has do a few things before he can carry on the bar's name. "Well, I told all of my grandchildren you will never work at Pete's until you've graduated from college and have followed your chosen career. I said Pete's is what old people do."
Pete's Bar is located at 117 1st Street in Neptune Beach and opens at 10am every day.
First Coast News