South Miami

Last call for Fox’s Lounge

Fox’s Lounge on South Dixie Highway in South Miami is closing after 69 years of business.
Fox’s Lounge on South Dixie Highway in South Miami is closing after 69 years of business. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Tucked along busy South Dixie Highway in South Miami sits a South Florida landmark staring down its final days.

Fox's Sherron Inn, which has been serving heavy free-poured drinks and pretty darn good food since the 1940s, will hold its last — and final — call early Saturday morning.

After 69 years, The Fox, as it's affectionately known, will be open just one more day.

“It's been a crazy three weeks,’’ said manager Ricardo Gutierrez, who has seen his small bar and restaurant overrun with patrons since its closing was announced earlier this month.

"The people have been pouring in here nonstop. It has been a madhouse. But seeing so many familiar faces, people you've known through the years come by has been great. You really got to see what this place meant to them.''

Owner Rene Dahdah is razing the popular hangout located a few blocks south of Sunset Drive not far from UM, known for its ample servings of alcohol and grub, and old-school ambiance. (Favorites on the menu: French Onion Soup, Steak Bits and a Reuben.)

Walking into the Fox is like stepping back in time.

A word of warning: Watch those first few steps. There is little light inside the windowless lounge, the only illumination coming from small red candles, a flat-screen television in the corner and the occasional glow from a smart phone.

“I've learned to leave my sunglasses on when I come in,’’ said longtime patron John Edward Smith, “and take them off after a few minutes after my eyes adjust.’’

The Fox will soon join a long list of popular Miami late-night spots closed in the name of progress. Like the 1800 Club off Biscayne Boulevard and downtown's legendary Tobacco Road before it, the Fox will be torn down to make way for new development.

Dahdah has plans for apartments, retail and office space. A new version of the Fox is possible.

Gutierrez says most of the historic markings from the bar —including the Art Deco-style neon sign that fronts U.S. 1 — will be preserved for future use at the site.

"We're keeping just about everything,'' Gutierrez said. "We're going to try and incorporate it in the new building.''

Hank and Betty Fox opened their humble saloon in 1946, naming it the Sherron Inn after their daughter. The Fox has only changed hands twice over the years.

In the 1960s, George Andrews bought the joint. Andrews sold to Dahdah in 2010.

The Fox has looked much like it does now for decades. In 1982, an electrical fire in the kitchen caused so much damage Andrews thought of redesigning the place but learned there are some things you don't mess with.

Fox's Lounge was rebuilt to look as it always had — minus the original sawdust floors.

“I was going to remodel it,'' Andrews told the Miami Herald in 1988, “but the customers all started crying. They wanted it the way it was.’’

A number of longtime regulars, many of whom remember the original place, were enjoying one of their final days at the lounge Thursday afternoon.

There was Smith, a retired Columbus High teacher, sitting in a booth washing down Fox's famed Southern Fried Chicken with a gin martini.

Although he's been coming here since 1967 when some parents at Columbus turned him onto the place, Smith ordered the deep-fried bird for the first time.

“This really is sad,’’' Smith said. “This place has charted its own history over the years. You just don't find places like this anymore. They are born over time.’’

Across the bar munching on a burger was Tom Phillips, who lives in Hollywood but has been frequenting the Fox since the late 1980s. Phillips brought a camera to document his final visit, snapping a photo of the large jukebox jammed near the men's room as well as the lit-up glass mural of the bar's slithering fox logo.

“I'm just sick to see us lose this,’’' Phillips said between bites. “I just love this place. Everything that changes in South Florida is for the worse, not the better. You're not going to find another place like this.’’

Charter boat captain Gary Ellis has been driving here from his home in Islamorada since the 1960s.

On Thursday, Ellis leaned on the bar slowly working on a crock of French onion soup while trying to make small talk with the very busy bartender Margot Love.

“Nothing is forever, I guess,’’' Ellis said. “It's a landmark, that's for sure, but you can't really see it from the highway. You have to know it's here.’’

Many people do.

When Ellis hit the road, Joan Madden saddled up to the bar. The Miami High grad — "Where else?" she quipped — has been coming to the Fox since her college days in the early 1950s. Thursday was perhaps her final trip to a place she described “like home. I feel very comfortable coming here, safe. And the food's always great.’’

Friday's final day of operation will be a battle for parking, seating and everything else. Madden said she doesn't anticipate fighting her way in.

“It's going to be absolutely crazy,'' she said just before her soup arrived. “I figured I would come early [Thursday] and it's already packed. I did get a nice parking spot under a tree, though, which is good.’’

Gutierrez said Fox's final Friday will “be business as usual. Well, as much as it can be.''

The bar will open at 11 a.m. with the last and final call for alcohol coming around 2 a.m. Saturday.

Gutierrez planned a special party for Saturday night, but scaled it back.

Only employees and some of the bar's treasured regulars will be invited. There will probably be some tears shed.

"I just want to have a few drinks with them,'' Gutierrez said. "Our staff deserves that. Some of regulars who have been here for us day after day supporting us deserve that too.''

Smith, the retired teacher, plans to be back for Saturday's final party. He's also angling to snare one or two of the dozen low-back bar stools surrounding the Fox's well-worn bar.

A 70th birthday celebration for the bar would have been held next year. This final weekend will have to do.

“We didn't make it to 70,’’' Gutierrez said as he ran his hand over the aged jukebox, “but 69 years is one hell of a run. This place will be missed.’’

Fox's Sherron Inn

6030 S. Dixie Hwy., South Miami

Final day of operation: Friday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. (Happy Hour from 4-7 p.m.)