The Jug Saloon

Jacksonville, Florida

Johnnie's Tavern - Columbus Dive Bar - Exterior

In Short

Fabled center of a deep dive bar mythology stemming from Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps,” The Jug Saloon is equal parts biker bar, Jacksonville dive and neighbor’s garage. The sparse space has seen renovation readily apparent on the walls and ceiling, but the stark interior and concrete floors balance out the new with the old, creating a friendly neighborhood Jacksonville dive.

Field Rating

7

out of 10

A friend's garage with less awkward silence.

Field Note

Once called the Pastime, The Jug Saloon holds the kind of mythology that would make you wonder why it was ever called something other than The Jug. As legend goes, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Gimme Three Steps” can trace its lyrical lineage back to either The Jug itself or a bar just like it, subject of the song’s line: “I was cutting a rug…down at a place called The Jug.” The band’s lead singer lived in Jacksonville at a time, participated in the events reflected in the song at a bar by another name and changed the dive bar title to better fit the lyrics of the song.

That a Jacksonville dive bar like The Jug wouldn’t run, nay sprint toward that historical pedigree by naming this place anything other than the lyric’s suggestion is a bit perplexing, but here we are with a Jacksonville dive bar on the west side of town that either directly or by way of mythological circumstance claims the mantle of Gimme Three Steps’ fated setting.

There’s a sense within that this place might just be held together by duct tape and screws left over from a forgotten furniture project.

All that said, this place is a true dive. Over the years, presumably tied to a name change or two, the space has seen renovation, but despite some professional-looking lighting and clearly renovated wall coverings, there’s a sense within that this place might just be held together by duct tape and screws left over from a forgotten furniture project. When the weather cooperates, the bar makes for an attractive sight with its garage door entrance open to the pool tables within. A small patio set sits on a short porch under what is now an orange sign featuring the name of the bar and a motorcycle, a clue for those astute dive bar drinkers among us that bikers are welcome.

And though the term ‘biker bar’ did follow shortly after any time I brought up the Jug on my trip to Jacksonville, it’s hard to pigeon-hole The Jug as any one thing. On this reviewer’s recent trip a small, select group of regulars were ponied up to the bar, leaving the bulk of the space free for an interloper like myself to do a bit of meandering. The short L-shaped bar sits in what feels like the middle of the room, just behind the red-felted pool table sitting under a magnificently vintage pool light.

The concrete floor, the open space, the grey painted front wall all add to the feeling akin to drinking in a friend’s garage.

From the metal signs along the front wall to the electrical box that serves as part of the wall’s décor, the garage door gives way to what feels very much like a Jacksonville dive bar garage. The concrete floor, the open space, the grey painted front wall all add to the feeling akin to drinking in a friend’s garage. A handful of other amenities can be found, such as a pair of digital dart boards and a Florida dive bar-standard gambling station. But this is a dive bar garage in every sense, despite each renovation’s efforts to polish up the surfaces within.

The Jug Saloon is a bit of a Jacksonville dive bar on an edge, bridging the gap between the authenticity that no doubt comes through and the well-done renovations throughout to keep up with the times. For every new light fixture or piece of redone paneling along the bar there exists an animal skull along the wall or a garage door opener overhead. The Jug is a biker bar, a garage, the center of a piece of Lynyrd Skynyrd lore and, above all else, a great Jacksonville dive bar for a domestic bottle on a hot day.

Photos

The Basics

5301 Lenox Ave
Jacksonville, FL 32205

Classification:
Neighborhood Bar

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