Screw you, Earl, the Palapa Bar is back and better than ever

Posted on Updated on

Panorama of the new Palapa Bar from the west side, facing east.
Panorama of the new Palapa Bar from the west side, facing east.

Hurricane Earl destroyed a lot of livelihoods when it ran down the coast of Ambergris Caye, here in Belize, tearing out piers like stubble on the end of a razor.

At least temporarily.

So many docks have been rebuilt, so many businesses were quickly up and running again within days of the terrible storm.

But none has been more anticipated and welcomed back from its watery grave than the Palapa Bar & Grill on Boca del Rio.

That happened on Sunday.

This came outy during the grand re-opening of the Palapa Bar & Grill in San Pedro, Belize on Sunday. Weather, in the form of Hurricane Earl, took away the Palapa and weather it seems is bestowing its blessing on the newly rebuilt bar.
This came out during the grand re-opening of the Palapa Bar & Grill in San Pedro, Belize on Sunday. Weather, in the form of Hurricane Earl, took away the Palapa and weather it seems is bestowing its blessing on the newly rebuilt bar.

In a little over 114 days, the iconic island watering hole went from sea-soaked kindling to this new, expansive super-iconic beach bar.

Fans, family and friends came out on Sunday to help Scott and Jodie Harnish celebrate this new beginning, their third in less than a year.

Couldn't even fit the whole rainbow into the picture while standing on the deck of the Palapa Bar in Sunday.
Couldn’t even fit the whole rainbow into the picture while standing on the deck of the Palapa Bar in Sunday.

It was the end of 2015 when the Palapa moved from its original spot in the Tres Cocos neighborhood. It had taken years for Scott and Jodie to turn the original Palapa from a sweaty drug and hooker den into the island’s most and iconic popular bar — inviting to locals, expats and visitors alike.

Our friend Ben Popik took this drone shot of the Palapa Bar, or what remains of it in the Boca del Rio section of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Our friend Ben Popik took this drone shot of the Palapa Bar, or what remains of it in the Boca del Rio section of San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.

It took a rather demented new landlord, bent on breaking their lease and driving them off the property, to convince Scott and Jodie to move onto their own pier south of the bridge — a spot once known as Wet Willie’s. Their newly built second-floor addition was barely open when the hurricane hit — and the scattered remains of the Palapa looked like it had been ground zero to a neutron bomb.

The bar and restaurant’s staff immediately became a search and recovery crew, joined by many from the community. Soon they all became the construction crew as well. And now they are back pouring drinks, serving up food, cracking jokes and giving out hugs to regulars and newcomers alike.

The back of their new Palapa T-shirts on Sunday said it all in big type: FAMILY.

View from the Palapa Bar bar......
A frosty view from the Palapa Bar bar……

Sunday’s opening was blessed by a tropical sun shower, what my family always referred to as a Hawaiian blessing, and a spectacularly full spectrum and complete land-to-reef rainbow. It all sort of underlined Scott’s vow on Sunday: “We are here to stay!”

These photos were taken on Sunday afternoon, with a couple of exterior shots from earlier this week.

By the time we arrived, patrons had already been busily engaged in the bar’s signature past-time: Scrawling names and initials on every available piece of woodwork.

(Neighbors from California once memorialized their honeymoon at the old Palapa and asked us to check on their handiwork when we moved here three years ago. Yes, it is that important! I, on the other hand, have a phobia against writing on furniture — since that moment in my childhood when I was inspired to take a seashell and etch “Zorro” into the top of my grandmother’s coffee table.)

Coconut Leo arrived and baptized the interior of the Palapa Bar by climbing up high into the tent pole rafters and hanging upside down above the heads of an appreciative crowd. After World War II, my dad apparently did that sort of thing too while in college, earning the nickname Monk. Some experiences just transcend time, cultures and distance.

Coconut Leo does what he does best, just hanging out in all the right places. Normally his medium is the coconut trees along the waterfront but no bar is truly christianed until Leo's been hanging from the rafters.....
Coconut Leo does what he does best, just hanging out in all the right places. Normally his medium is the coconut trees along the waterfront but no bar is truly christianed until Leo’s been hanging from the rafters…..

The Palapa v 2.0 (or 3.0, if you count the original) is a superior piece of beach bum craftsmanship — almost cathedral-like with its high ceilings and wide-open architecture. If the bar be the altar, then its center-stage position speaks to all liquorial persuasions quite well. There is no jostling for position with a bar this long.

Workers were still building out bits and pieces — including a set of stairs into the water, where the trademark inner-tubes await aquatically inclined drinkers.

All in all, the Palapa is back, and it is big, bad and beautiful. And it feels like a little piece of the island soul, stolen by Earl, has been restored.

More photos for you:

View toward the bar from the reef side of the newly re-opened Palapa Bar & Grill in San Pedro, Belize.
View toward the bar from the reef side of the newly re-opened Palapa Bar & Grill in San Pedro, Belize.
Lots of help behind the bar!
Lots of help behind the bar!
Coconut Leo, reaching for the rafters on Sunday in the newly re-opened Palapa Bar & Grill in San Pedro, Belize.
Coconut Leo, reaching for the rafters on Sunday in the newly re-opened Palapa Bar & Grill in San Pedro, Belize.
Rose, Sue and Marie enjoying the re-opening of the Palapa Bar & Grill in San Pedro, Belize.
Rose, Sue and Marie enjoying the re-opening of the Palapa Bar & Grill in San Pedro, Belize.

 

Ruth joins Rose, Sue and Marie!
Ruth joins Rose, Sue and Marie!
Palapa Bar & Grill on opening day, Sunday, November 20, 2016.
Palapa Bar & Grill on opening day, Sunday, November 20, 2016.
Scott Harnish delivers an emotional welcome to all who attended opening day of his Palapa Bar & Grill.
Scott Harnish delivers an emotional welcome to all who attended opening day of his Palapa Bar & Grill.
Lots of room behind the bar as well!
Lots of room behind the bar as well!
The walk up to the Palapa Bar & Grill.
The walk up to the Palapa Bar & Grill.
The view of the Palapa Bar & Grill from the reef side of the pier. Floating inner-tubes and a set of stairs into the water have since been added in the foreground.
The view of the Palapa Bar & Grill from the reef side of the pier. Floating inner-tubes and a set of stairs into the water have since been added in the foreground.

 

Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Screw you, Earl, the Palapa Bar is back and better than ever

    Linda Czestochowski said:
    November 22, 2016 at 8:36 am

    We visited the original Palapa Bar on our full day in San Pedro (sadly, almost 2 yrs ago). We had so much fun at lunch that we returned for dinner that evening….and bought tee-shirts!! The ambiance & view were both spectacular, but this new and improved version gives us just another reason to return to Belize. Best of luck with the new location — it looks fabulous!! 🙂

    Like

    Lynn Monaco said:
    November 22, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    I’m SO glad they’re back up and running so quickly. It looks amazing!! Chris and I will be going there some time before we leave. [I do wish, however, that it were still up here north of the bridge….sigh]

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      November 22, 2016 at 6:22 pm

      Rose and I stopped in for lunch today and they have the same deliciously juicy burgers as before — and fries. Felt like a homecoming!

      Like

    Alan and Sue Davis from NH said:
    December 14, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    We have been to the old bar dozens of times over the years, and were initially bummed to here of its destruction….but ….after reading this blog it sounds like its a godsend, back and better than ever….that’s great news…and in town too! Can’t wait to get back to San P and visit

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s