Ball & Chain Saloon opened up way back in 1935. Over the years, it changed its name occasionally. At some times it was known as "Himmel's Ball & Chain." At others, "Ball & Chain Tavern." Regardless of the name, it was usually a bit sketchy. In its infancy (and perhaps a bit afterward), illegal gambling was part of the allure.
Ball & Chain was bought in the early 1950s by a felon, an entrepreneur, and others. The "entrepreneur" was reputedly part of a Jewish mob and a dealer of bootleg liquor and cigarettes. The felon was a Teamsters Union Local organizer who had been associated with repeated acts of vandalism. Off to a good start.
During the early days, many famous performers made their way through Ball & Chain, including Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and Chet Baker. Billie Holiday even babysat for the owner's family, according to his sons. During "jam sessions" in the 1950s, audience members were invited up on the stage to perform with the headline acts.
There was an interesting mix of cultures at Ball & Chain. Despite the fact that much of the crowd was Jewish, there were also many black performers and audience members. One of the bar owners even used to sneak black performers to an adjacent hotel he owned using a secret door.
Eventually, by the end of the 1950s, Ball & Chain went broke and had to close down. Around this time, many Cuban immigrants began to move to Miami to escape the dictators in their homeland. Southwest 8th Street (the street where Ball & Chain is located) was informally renamed "Calle Ocho." Latin culture began to take over the area.
Following its bankruptcy, a furniture store replaced Ball & Chain. Not nearly as exciting. However, in the early 2000s, Ball & Chain was reopened to revive its past glory with a Latin flavor. Today, Ball & Chain is now a prime spot for Cuban food and music.
Ball & Chain is jam-packed with music all day. They often have live salsa events all afternoon, live jazz in the evening, and special events at night. They even offer free salsa classes. You can dance the night away in style.
Ball & Chain has a tasty, Cuban-inspired menu. Try the Conch Ceviche, Queso Frito, or the Calle Ocho Burger. If you're looking for a unique cocktail, why not try the Havana Regal? The kitchen stays open until midnight!
Cover photo: "Ball And Chain" by Phillip Pessar is licensed under CC BY 2.0.