Ginger’s Place

Jacksonville, Florida

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Staple of the Jacksonville-area list of haunted locations, Ginger’s Place and its blue, largely windowless building honor the memory of past owner Ginger, a mermaid burlesque performer turned bar owner who passed away in 2003. Her picture still above the bar in all of its burlesque, classic glory, what better way to honor a bar owner’s spirit than to drink in a dark room well removed from the Florida humidity.

Field Rating

8

out of 10

Because the fun kind of mermaid is a ghost mermaid.

Field Note

A cursory review of the storied history of Ginger’s Place quickly lands on the words ‘haunted,’ ‘burlesque’ and ‘mermaid,’ which is a pretty attractive trifecta as far as dive bar credentials go. The story goes that one of the bar’s owners, Ginger (real name Darlene), haunts the bar, going so far as to throw the occasional object across the bar. And if all of that weren’t interesting enough, Ginger’s past show credits include serving as Tiza, The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl as part of a vaudeville act that constrained her to a portable tank as part of a mermaid show.

Eventually, apparently, freed from her mermaid shackles, Ginger and her husband settled on the current location of the bar as the next great chapter of their lives, operating the bar until Ginger’s husband, Ziggy, passed in 1998 and Ginger following him in 2003. Framed photos of Ginger in her profound burlesque glory can still be found along the bar’s walls, complemented by the indoor marquee that on this reviewer’s visit featured a tribute to the recently passed Betty White. One can only hope that her path crossed with Ginger’s at some point.

The space features only a single window, the wall facing the busy street outside insulated from all light and sound and sense of reality.

With all of that context set, Ginger’s Place is a hidden gem of a Jacksonville dive bar anchoring an otherwise nondescript block amid chain fast food restaurants a few blocks from the beach and its string of ocean-facing condominiums. Historical photos of the building show some variation in exterior color, but today’s scheme features a two-tone blue that seems befitting of the mermaid-tinged history of the dive bar. Pleasantly, the space features only a single window, the wall facing the busy street outside insulated from all light and sound and sense of reality.

Over the years, updates have certainly been made, with corrugated metal lining the wall around the front door and new flooring complementing chairs that are certainly a cut above typical dive bar standard. But even with those updates, the charm and authenticity of the space can be seen, from the classic Budweiser Clydesdale display over the bar to the framed picture of Ginger still featured prominently just below it.

The footprint is small but densely packed with enough to do and look at to carry out some nicely undisturbed day drinking.

The square footage is sparse, here, the front room dominated by a bar that curves across two walls just long enough to hold a pair of tabletop gambling machines. Opposite the bar, an arcade game and pinball machine give way into a drop ceiling-lined secondary space with a Florida-standard gambling machine in one corner and a pair of digital dart boards in the other. Aside from the old school cigarette vending machine (smoking is permitted in the bar, heads up), that really ends the tour of the space. The footprint is small but densely packed with enough to do and look at to carry out some nicely undisturbed day drinking.

Though sadly this reviewer’s trip didn’t involve a close encounter of any kind other than a couple of Budweisers and a bag of chips (bill total $6), the haunted lore that swirls around Ginger’s Place only heightens the appeal of the Jacksonville Beach dive bar. One can only assume that drinking heavily on this hallowed ground only pleases the spirit of Ginger that monitors the space, as good a reason to hide from the Florida sun to drink a windowless room as you’ll ever come across.

Photos

The Basics

304 3rd St S
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

Classification:
Neighborhood Bar

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