USA – Key West, Barrelhead Bar // Licence to Kill (1989)
If there’s one thing never missing in a Bond movie – except for a hot girl and a cool Martini – it’s a tangible fist fight. Just some minutes from the city centre of Key West invites the “Barrelhead Bar” with its original neon sign to a rather unexpected cuisine.
Why Bond was here
007 (played by Timothy Dalton) sets out to the Barrelhead Bar to intercept pilot Pam Bouvier (Carey Lowell). She is an undercover CIA agent infiltrating the imperium of South American drug kingpin Franz Sanchez (Robert Davi). However, Sanchez’ henchmen Dario (Benicio Del Toro) is there as well. The three don’t do much talk but engage in a classic Wild West bar fight right from the spot. Well, it’s classical Wild West until some swashbuckler starts wielding around a stuffed swordfish.
Though the tavern is set to be on Bahamian island Bimini – 70 kilometer off the east-coast of Florida – everything was actually filmed at Key Western “Harbour Lights Bar”. The bar is now a restaurant named “Thai Island” – but takes credit to his famous movie past and has the big “Barrelhead” neon sign used in the film still on the roof.
The bar is situated at the Garrison Bight Marina in the north of Key West. When coming into town via car or bus form the Keys, you’ll probably drive over the bridge on Palm Avenue Causeway. The “Barrelhead” sign is easily visible just to the left.
For visitors who start from downtown, the bar is easy to find when walking either from Eaton Street or Truman Avenue up north – look out for Eisenhower Drive to find the right adress. The green and blue bus lines of Key West also come close: Get off at stop “Palm Ave @ DoT”.
Good to know
Nowadays the tavern is not that much fun. The best part of it is outside: When you take some steps down to the marina left of the entry door, you’ll see the actual anchorage of Bond’s motorboat. And right above it is the neon lit pattern that shows the “Barrelhead Bar” as it was used in the movie, including it’s fake location on “Bimini”.
We’ve been there just for a short visit. The bar itself looked pretty boring, as no swordfish fight was going on – neither a table dancer was hitting the stage. So we went on the other Key West movie locations pretty fast. But the neon sign!, thank god, they kept the neon sign!
© 2015 Huntingbond (1,3), © 1989 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. and Danjaq, LLC. (2)