After hearing the news last week that Churchill’s Pub will likely change ownership in May, we started digging through our archives for our favorite Churchill’s photos. It was damn hard to whittle them down, what with all the grimy good memories the pub and, by extension, owner Dave Daniels has given us. This collection captures only a sliver of the weird wonderful world of Churchill’s, a noisy netherland of fire, smoke, blood, sweat, booze and, of course, music. As much as any other place, Churchill’s has made Miami a magic city over the last 35 years. Here’s hoping the new owners don’t puke in the potion.
Anyone that has been to Churchill’s Pub in Little Haiti has a story to tell.
First-timers and people who never went back will warn you about thick-tongued men who ooze out of darkness and, trembling, offer to watch your car for a dollar. Regulars know the implied threat — “watch” means “not break into” — is usually a bluff. Some even know the men’s names or at least the handles they’ve adopted for use in this parking lot and the myriad other shadowy places they congregate at around the neighborhood.
Last Thursday, Local 10 reported — and the Miami New Times re-reported — a drive-by shooting at 3:30 a.m. in front of Churchill’s Pub on 55th Street and Northeast 2nd Avenue in Little Haiti. Both outlets later updated their initial write-ups, with the New Times reporting that the shooting was not a drive-by and had occurred after “most patrons of [Churchill’s] had gone home,” attributing the new information to a source from the iconic pub-and-grub punk club.
The update did not clear up all of the inaccuracies in the local media’s coverage of the shooting, says Churchill’s entertainment director Ian Michael. Not only was the shooting not a drive-by — it was not in front of Churchill’s. Calling the incident “a dispute between crackheads”, Michael says the shooting took place “behind Churchill’s … a block away from the door.”
For many, a shooting one block away from Churchill’s might as well have happened in front of Churchill’s, but the distinction is important to Michael, who says the club has experienced a backlash since the shooting reports broke, with several bands cancelling upcoming shows and patrons saying they plan to stay away from the 30-year-old dive bar from now on.
“I’m talking to bands that tell me they’re cancelling, and I’m telling them the same thing: it wasn’t during business hours, it wasn’t a drive-by, it occurred after we closed between non-patrons,” Michael says. Kid Fisto, Antics, and The Fringe have all pulled out of the show they were supposed to play at Churchill’s on Thursday, July 28, Michael says.
It should be noted that Michael did not witness the shooting and was not at Churchill’s himself when it happened. His story comes from club owner Dave Daniels, who lives behind Churchill’s and who woke up to the sound of gunfire at approximately 3:30 Thursday morning. Michael says Daniels ran out of his house and “saw the last bit of it happening.”
“He saw people running,” Michael says. “He didn’t see or hear any cars. He saw two men, one dead and another man wounded.”
Regardless of the inaccuracies in the initial local media coverage, Michael says the backlash to the shooting is an overreaction.
“This sort of thing happens all the time,” he says. “Little Haiti is a lot safer than the neighborhood next to Vagabond or Eve [downtown]. I’ve had my car broken into down there, and someone tried to mug me once. [Little Haiti] is not the greatest neighborhood. If you leave your purse in your car and park a block away, it’s going to get stolen. But, shit, you can say that about places in suburbia too.”
Even if Little Haiti is dangerous, it is all part of what make’s Churchill’s unique, Michael says.
“One of the things that makes Churchill’s special is the neighborhood it’s in,” he says. “That’s why the prices are so low.”
Daniels, Churchill’s septuagenarian owner, is planning to release a statement on the shooting “when he gets around it to it,” Michael says. In the meantime, the club is trying to get the New Times to write a follow-up article about the shooting.
“We reached out to them [on Monday], but so far we haven’t heard back from them,” Michael says.
In related news, the New Times is presenting its “Best of the Best” show on Saturday … at Churchill’s.
See you there?