The Handlebar, Pensacola

handlebar

The Handlebar is a hub of the Pensacola music scene.  Located at 319 N. Tarragona St. the Handlebar has had a reputation for being a heavy metal and punk rock hangout.  Due to the implications in the name, it has often been mistaken for a biker bar.  The truth is that the Handlebar is a melting pot of styles and genre, with musical features which naturally include heavy metal and punk rock, but pop, folk and even country as well.

Ever since the bar first opened, the Handlebar has provided a stage for local and touring bands to perform and promote themselves.  Some of the better known acts that have performed at the Handlebar include Run DMC, Black Flag and TSoL.

The Handlebar serves beer and wine in a single community room with plenty of open space providing a clear view of the stage.  It’s a simple brick and mortar design splashed with black graffiti, decorated with vintage photos hanging crookedly on the walls.  At the north end of the bar, opposite the stage sits a piano I’ve never seen played ornamented with a Pet Rose Plaque and a skull in voodoo fashion, capped with a bud light sign.

There is a single billiard table and jukebox that plays when there are no bands onstage.  Typical selections include anything from the Dead Kennedy’s or Led Zeppelin to Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley.

The back courtyard of the Handlebar makes for great escape sometimes from the volume and activity inside.  With two tables outside, patrons of the handlebar can enjoy their drinks, company and the fresh air of the mild Pensacola climate.

The Handlebar is a required stop in Pensacola if you enjoy the atmosphere and music of an underground music scene.  It has been an active part of the Pensacola music scene for so long that anybody playing original music locally inevitably plays many shows at the Handlebar.  It’s been one of my regular hangouts for years.

If you want to know more about the Handlebar, check out their webpage here.

6 thoughts on “The Handlebar, Pensacola”

  1. If you’ve never seen that piano played, you are not much of a regular- I participated in many an inebriated sing along well-fueled by dollar drafts at that piano! Also, you didn’t mention the fire more than 10 years ago that put the Lamar family under pressure to sell & cut their losses, but led ultimately to a complete remodeling to the open floor plan you describe- originally it was split into two separate areas by the bar itself. I also read your Sluggo’s entry, and it sounds like you have spent alot more time there than at “the bar” (as regulars affectionately call the Handlebar) with all the kids who get their “punk rock” clothes at Hot Topic and their body jewelry at Claire’s; you know, the cookie cutter trendies who think they can purchase their rebellion at the mall!

    1. Let’s see. I first began going to the Handlebar in 1992, and attend shows there quite frequently. I’m on a first name basis with Beav, Jimmy, Charles and see a lot of my other friends there. Whether or not that makes me a regular isn’t much of a worry to me. I’ve been going to Sluggos about the same amount of time. I like both places. I don’t really get involved in the inter-underground rivalries. The Bar typically has better shows, but Sluggos has whiskey. Have I told you how much I like good Irish whiskey? Thanks for reading.

      1. Btw, I didn’t mean to start a pissing contest about who’s on a more first-name basis with the staff by my use of the word “regular,” so perhaps that was the wrong word. I am not on a first name basis with everyone who currently works there, but I am still on a first name basis with everyone who worked there when it was my home away from home (used to nap on that leather couch some afternoons while waiting for the bands to arrive). I’m certainly not a regular anymore, but that place always has been & always will be THE bar to me; I would have liked to see more about the facinating history of the place, from the building itself to the family that has long been a stalwart supporter of local & independent artists, including a band that caught the eye of Henry Rollins. I guess I just didn’t think you did it near as much justice as it deserves. But that owes less to your skills as a writer & more to my nostalgic bias. Plus I find any shameless commercialization of punk rock aesthetic particularly nauseating, and maybe through no fault of ownership or management, but the Sluggo’s crowd just always seemed alot “cooler.” Kinda like how the Psychedelic Shack eventually seemed to represent the gross commercialization of hippie culture. “Hippie Couture” as we used to call it. I was once on a first name basis with Burton, John, Yvette, etc, but no more.

      1. Just sayin- if you haven’t ever seen the piano played, you are missing out on one helluva old school crowd. James, (may he rest in peace), Sue, & Jimmy are the best for sure- Jimmy knows practically everyone in town. Alot of my friends came up in the whole rathouse scene & spent many hours jamming at the Lamar household, back when the band Jimmy drummed for almost put Pensacola on the map (late 80s early 90s). They have always treated me like family there. Sluggo’s seemed to pale in comparison, very impersonal, too cool for school. Just my opinion, but I was always a bit put off by the plethora of Betty Page clones!
        Not a drinker, so the whiskey is not important to me. But I don’t begrudge a person their indulgences, so long as no one is harmed!

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