Hog’s Breath Saloon measures the soul of its music in dog years. Why should you care who’s playing “Friends in Low Places” or “Mustang Sally?” Ask Toby Keith or Zack Brown. They played Garth Brooks at Hog’s Breath before the next Nashville Star started playing “I love this Bar” and “Chicken Fried.” Kenny Chesney launched his world tour with Roosters clucking over his cowboy hat at The Hog. What’s in the Hog’s Breath secret sauce? The island? The logo? The staff? The famous people that used to play there? Staff preparation manifests in artists’ participation in Island Inspiration. Just don’t ask me what “Hog’s Breath is Better Than No Breath at All” means. You’re supposed to find that out for yourself.
Hog’s Breath GM Art Levine doesn’t play and musicians speak his language. Consistency is Art’s superpower. Tourists are on every menu of the three bars at the Hog. A healthy diet of hit Classic Rock and Country songs keep the bar packed at night long after daytrippers are back on their cruise ships. A good ear can identify real music no matter who wrote it. The music at Hog’s Breath is familiar. The band and audience never miss a beat.
In 2016 Hog’s Breath’s consistency is the Key West equivalent of sending a man to the moon in flip flops. Imagine trying to contact, recruit, schedule, and pay 3 acts a day, every day of the year, on an island where locals call you a tourist if you wear a watch. Money, alcohol, and people are imported, but only tourists are returned on this island. A few families own all of the local real estate. More than one health inspector has said, “Where’s your OTHER kitchen?” bumping into line cooks in the tiny bar galley. This close to Cuba politics can close your open air doors faster than you can say “LAST CALL!”
Levine impressively kept wind in the Hog’s Breath sales (pun intended) after Key West legend Charlie Bauer unceremoniously parted ways with the bar whose notable history he authored. A tidal wave of island politics converged on Hog’s Breath “Post Charlie.” Levine weathered the storm and artfully (pun unintended) focussed on quality and consistency. Passionate music fan and bar manager, Dan Hogberg (yes, that’s his real last name), and a merry band of bar ninjas quietly execute food and beverage acrobatics day and night backstage so the music can gobble up the limelight. Snowbirds, Roosters, and musicians share the same kind of muscle memory. All year long Hog’s Breath breathes life into their mainland lives until Key West’s pied piper draws them back.
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