[Update: Sadly, the Handlebar closed its doors for good in November 2018.]
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.