Miami’s three best outdoor, on-the-water sports bars deal… – The Athletic

Editor’s note: In an effort to support local businesses that are being threatened by the devastating effects of the coronavirus, The Athletic is publishing an ongoing series of stories to highlight our treasured communities. #supportlocal

DAVIE, Fla. — On a typical March or April weekend, Shucker’s, a waterfront bar and grill located between Miami and Miami Beach, is packed with three types of customers — locals who regularly walk there, tourists who have heard about the amazing view (and the equally amazing grilled wings), and boaters who pull up to the dock, occasionally on million-dollar yachts, looking for a place to chill for an hour or two.

It’s rare, even in South Florida, to combine the sunny outdoors, glistening water and an overload of big-screen TVs playing sports of all types. But Shucker’s delivers every single time.

Locals will tell you Shucker’s is one of the three best outdoor, on-the-water sports bars in South Florida — along with Bokamper’s, owned by former Miami Dolphins linebacker Kim Bokamper, and Duffy’s, a Florida-based chain that features two-for-one drinks all the time at all locations. Seriously. And its North Miami Beach location has a swimming pool as well as 170 HD TVs.

“There is no seat in the house where you can’t watch all the action,” said Joe Webb, president of Duffy’s Sports Grills.

In a typical year, Shucker’s, Duffy’s North Miami Beach location and the Bokamper’s in Fort Lauderdale/Oakland Park — which are all accessible by boat — would be doing huge business in March and April. They’re two of the biggest months of the year financially with spring break, St. Patrick’s Day, the NCAA Tournament and the NBA playoffs giving a big boost to food and beverage sales.

The weather, which is spectacular with plenty of sunshine, highs in the 80s and — this is the key — no humidity, is the cherry on top.

But because of the COVID-19 scare, only Bokamper’s is open right now, and only for takeout. And four of his seven locations are closed.

“We’re not making money anywhere,” said Bokamper, who played in Super Bowls XVII and XIX as a member of Miami’s “Killer B’s” defense of the 1980s.

“All we’re doing is staying open. We give 50 percent off for first responders and stuff like that, try to help them out. And really, for us, the only reason we’re staying open is to keep as many employees working as possible.”

Bokamper is doing his part in other ways, too. He has teamed with two of his former Dolphins teammates — linebacker John Offerdahl, owner of Offerdahl’s Off-The-Grill, and linebacker Bob Brudzinksi, owner of Bru’s Room Sports Grill — to provide 400 meals for South Florida residents during these challenging times.

The Dolphins, led by owner Stephen Ross, kicked in $250,000 to jumpstart the project that began providing meals to church groups in Miami Gardens and will soon expand to Miami’s Liberty City and Overtown neighborhoods and then to Fort Lauderdale.

It’s a nice gesture.

But it’s happening because it’s so tough to keep restaurants open right now.

Bokamper’s Oakland Park location was allowing pickup by boat for a while. That part of the business took a dip when Miami-Dade County shut down the boat launch ramps. A few people who had boats at their houses still used the pickup-by-boat service, but then the county shut down the fuel docks.

“Once you run out of fuel,” Bokamper said, “boating is out of the picture, too.”

In most cases, there’s not enough business to make the numbers work.

“We actually did takeout for a week, and financially and for the safety of the team it wasn’t worth it,” said Kevin Amiott, food and beverage director at Shucker’s. “I think it’s better for the little mom-and-pop kind of places. It’s going to help them. For me to do $1,000 a day in takeout, it’s not really worth it for us.”

Shucker’s, which is owned by the same company that owns the well-known Clevelander on Ocean Drive on Miami Beach, has one location, in North Bay Village. It employs around 100 people; some have been laid off, others are furloughed.

It’s the same deal for Bokamper, who said it takes about 80 employees to keep one of his locations going, more for the bigger places.

Duffy’s has 34 locations across Florida. It’s trying to keep its customers engaged by hosting a weekly trivia game at 7 p.m. every Thursday on its Facebook page. Winners can earn MVP Bonus Dollars, part of the chain’s well-known customer loyalty program, and redeem those dollars for food and drinks when Duffy’s reopens.

Still, nothing replaces the real thing: sitting at Duffy’s, Shucker’s or Bokamper’s, basking in the sun, watching the boats go by, sipping a cold beer and watching a game on a big-screen TV.

Each spot has a wealth of draft beers as well as plenty of local beers.

And the food …

At Bokamper’s, it’s the wings, burgers and sushi (yes, sushi).

At Duffy’s, it’s the cheeseburger and the jumbo wings.

At Shucker’s, it’s the grilled wings and the fresh seafood, especially the grouper sandwich, either grilled or fried.

“I’ve had everybody call me, ‘I want a sandwich, I want a sandwich!’” Amiott said. “Yeah, I want one, too! I’m packing my lunch. I don’t get to eat Shucker’s food right now.”

Like the general population, the restaurant owners are getting a bit antsy about being forced to shelter in place.

But no one is sure how business will look in the first days or even weeks once the rules are relaxed.

“My girlfriend and I, we’ve been kind of at the point (where) she’s like, ‘I can’t wait to go somewhere and have someone serve me a fucking martini,’” Bokamper said with a laugh. “So I can tell you we’re going to be one of those first out of the block, bellying up to a bar somewhere. You know what I mean?

“But then there are other people I think that are going to be cautious about, ‘Hey, is this thing really over? Is there still some lingering?’ But I think, as opposed to other restaurants, we might get a bigger hit when sports come back.”

The return of sports could be an advantage for sports bars like these. On the other hand, there might be social-distancing regulations in place that make establishments space tables out so much they’ll reduce their normal capacity by half.

Amiott said they’ve already been alerted about new cleaning standards by the health department. Although Shucker’s only has two employees working right now, they’ve sanitized the entire place: tables, chairs, the bar, the deck, everything.

No one knows what to expect when they reopen. But they know things will be different.

“I’ve seen a lot of things,” said Amiott, who has run the House of Blues in Chicago as well as bars in Aspen, Colo., and Austin, Texas, “but I never in my life would ever think this would happen. You know how you see it in the movies, but you don’t ever think it would happen to us?

“But it’s here. And everybody’s got to address it and deal with it.”

(Photo of the Duffy’s in North Miami Beach: Courtesy of Duffy’s)

Read more quality sports coverage with a free 7-day trial

If you enjoyed this article, start a free trial today to get full access to all the smart, in-depth coverage on The Athletic, then get 25% off the annual plan.

START FREE TRIAL