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#764: English pub is a draw in Miami's Little Haiti (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
English pub is a draw in Miami's Little Haiti
By Jane Sutton
MIAMI, Oct. 20 (Reuters) - Sir Winston Churchill's rotund silhouette
adorns the outside wall of one of Florida's most incongruous watering
holes, an English pub in the middle of Miami's Creole-flavored Little Haiti
By day, Churchill's Hideaway is jammed full of Commonwealth
expatriates, drawn by the satellite dish that picks up their beloved soccer
and rugby matches from around the world. By night, eclectic bands take over
the tiny stage -- a Celtic rock band one night, punks in safety pins the
Marilyn Manson played Churchill's early in his career. So did
high-octane country crooners The Mavericks. Plutonium Pie plays Halloween.
"It's generally original music as opposed to covers," said Dave
Daniels, the portly and genial proprietor known for giving pretty much any
band a chance.
Churchill's serves up warm beer and traditional British pub grub --
bangers and mash, shepherd's pie -- in an amiable atmosphere that is
decidedly not posh or stuffy. It was the setting for the seedy nightclub
scene in the hit movie "Something About Mary" where Matt Dillon's character
ogled the exotic dancers writhing across the bar and pool tables.
The film crew left a gift: wooden covers built to spare the pool
tables' felt tops from the dancers' spiked heels.
Irish rockers U2 stopped by a couple of years ago to catch a crucial
cup final. Daniels got a phone call first, asking "Could U2 have a VIP
"I told them it wasn't that kind of place," Daniels said. "There's no
In fact, chickens scratch around in what passes for a parking lot,
pecking among the BMWs and Land Rovers and the red double-decker London bus
that sits rusting on the gravel.
No matter. Loyal Churchill's fans worship Daniels' knack for tuning in
the international rugby and soccer games that other sports bars do not
"He's so creative at getting all the games. It's any game you want to
see," said Andrew Reid, a New Zealander living in Miami Beach. "I've been
here when there were 200 kids here to see a band play on stage and Dave
would not let them go on because he was trying to get the feed."
A typical Saturday lineup is four rugby and three soccer games,
running two at a time on giant-screen televisions -- one of them atop a
deli case full of cold cuts and cheese. The door and windows are covered
with blackout curtains to aid viewing, heightening the almost surreal
atmosphere. Cheers, groans and good-natured taunts swell with the action.
English expatriate Debbie Reeves brought vacationing friends to catch
"the ultimate needle match" between England and New Zealand in the Rugby
World Cup. Worried about whether it was safe to park in the neighbourhood,
she persuaded her guests to drive in their rental car, but once inside her
safety concerns quickly vanish.
"It doesn't matter where you are. Once you get a bunch of English and
New Zealanders together it's like you're back in England or New Zealand
again," Reeves said.
"In New Zealand, rugby is the national religion," Kiwi Angela Doddard
One grateful customer has just returned from a trip home to England
and brings Dave a bag of Maltesers (chocolate candies) and other English
delicacies not sold in United States.
After the rugby ends -- with a 30-16 New Zealand win -- four Croatians
wearing their country's red-and-white checkered soccer shirt take up seats
to watch the crunch game against Yugoslavia in the European Soccer
In a scene to warm the heart of the United Nations, they chat with a
couple of Serbians supporting Yugoslavia. (The match ends in 2-2 draw,
enough for Yugoslavia to qualify).
A Ukrainian and a Russian sit at the bar watching their teams battle
it out on the other screen.
Daniels, a native of Leek in the English Midlands, fled England's
miserable gray winters after spending a sunny vacation in Miami. He had run
pubs and booked bands back in England and opened a small bar, Winston
Churchill's Pub, in Miami after a stint as a food manager on a cruise ship.
That bar was destroyed in race riots in 1980 but by then Daniels had
opened a second bar, the present Churchill's. He chose the Little Haiti
site, northwest of downtown Miami, because the price was right.
At the time the rundown neighbourhood had a concentration of poor
immigrants from Haiti. Some of the blight that made it affordable has eased
and the rejuvenation of Miami's Design District a few blocks north bodes
well for the area's future.
Daniels doubled the bar's space by buying a Haitian driving school
next door and knocking out the dividing wall. He bought some furniture from
the Playboy club when it closed years ago.
He has run Churchill's for 20 years, probably a record in Miami's
volatile club industry, and has talked about selling it for almost that
"I keep promising myself I'll have a year off and travel," said
Daniels, 58, who lives in a house next door to the bar. He tried selling
the bar a year or two ago but "The only people that seemed halfway serious
was a Haitian church."
A church lady stopped in to look around but never came back. None of
his patrons believe he could give up Churchill's despite his laments that
he is a slave to the sports schedule.
"I'm getting too old. I got out of here at 10-to-4 (a.m.) Friday night
and had to be back here at 6 a.m. The first game was at 7," he said,
But a few minutes later he was happily discussing plans to turn the
patio into a venue for Caribbean steel drum bands.
(Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein)