“The Caribbean Club has survived hurricanes, fires, and a Great Recession. We’ll survive this too. Please stay safe, stay home, and stay healthy. We love our Keys family and look forward to partying with you all once the danger has passed. Love, The Caribbean Club.”
This emotional post appeared on the Caribbean Club’s Facebook page early last week after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all bars and nightclubs closed for 30 days. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the Caribbean Club, known to locals as “The Crib,” appears resilient.
“We feel, as a family, closing was the right thing to do,” said Kristy Schweiss, who owns Caribbean Club with her brother and sister, Robby and Kathy Whitehurst. “Tourists were still coming in from other areas and a lot of tourists come into our bar. We want to keep our customers and our employees safe and we think this was the best way to do that.”
Caribbean Club has a rich history since its founding in 1938, most notably in the 1948 movie “Key Largo” starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Edward G. Robinson. As the oldest bar in the Upper Keys, it has weathered many storms over the course of its 82-year reign. The Whitehurst family took over the bar in 1963 and has made it through the 2007-09 recession, multiple devastating fires started under suspicious circumstances (the first destroyed the hotel and kitchen that were previously part of the property), and serious damage from Hurricane Wilma, as well as numerous other threatening hurricanes.
Kathy, Kristy and Robby attribute Caribbean Club’s success to their late mother, Ruth. After their father died when they were teenagers, Ruth raised them and kept the Club up and running, even during the hardest of times.
The family keeps a positive attitude and is taking the experience day by day. Kristy feels that though the coronavirus is devastating to the economy right now, the Keys will come back full force once the pandemic is behind us.
“I’ve lived here pretty much all my life and this community is one amazing community,” said Kristy. “It’s such a giving community and if anybody needs help, they come together, so I’m really not worried about Key Largo at all.”
Caribbean Club’s message to the community is to stay safe, hunker down, keep the distance and keep your head up.
“I’m hopeful that we will open in 30 days,” said Kristy, who said this is one of only a few times the bar has ever had to close. “We’re ready to open whenever they let us. The Club will be fine. I pray Key Largo will be fine.”