Few places define a neighborhood like Bradshaw’s Tavern. In the forty years since its inception, the unassuming watering hole has become a mecca for bikers, truckers, hookers, dealers and thirsty travelers who’ve lost their way due to misleading signs. Those signs, which suggest Bradshaw’s Pike joins a real freeway instead of winding to a close at the tavern parking lot, are more than just clever marketing ploys. They’ve helped cinch the tavern’s unlikely longevity and landed an unknown number of new residents who, like Socrates “Scotch” Johnson before them, simply gave up trying to find a map.
But the region has also changed over the years and become a magnet for hard-bitten, anti-government types who’ve flocked to “The Pike” to establish what’s now called the “Flubug Free State.”
That anything-goes element, which centers around a loosely-knit coterie of militant anti-tax, anti-government, pro-gun supporters (and recently, alleged war criminals) was quick to embrace the raucous atmosphere at Bradshaws. They also found the infamous grub, served in canteens with the phrase “Been There” stenciled across the back, a refreshing throwback to their days, however vicarious, in the military.
But even without these relative newcomers, Bradshaw’s has always been a Down County institution. Whether you’re looking to suck up some suds, cop local weed, sing karaoke or engage in a political debate with one of the well-armed locals, Bradshaw’s continues to be the place to be.
It all began in 1969 when Elmer Bradshaw discovered the location while hunting possums. In those days it was a Polynesian pizza joint with black lights, Arabian disco and dayglo paintings of spewing volcanos and palm trees. Small wonder the proprietor barely made the rent.
Bradshaw’s first thought was to open the location as a strip club near the then well-traveled Old Road. But he abandoned the thought after “scoping” the local talent which, as he said, “couldn’t sell a lap dance to Woody Allen.” He then turned his thoughts to his first loves, bikes and drugs, and Bradshaw’s Tavern was born. Forty years later the combination is still paying dividends.
“Do what you love,” Bradshaw smiles as he throws back a shot of Vermouth stunted grape and sniffs a long line of white “flatch” from the bar. “Isn’t that what they say? And who doesn’t love sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll?” He pauses to eye the young hooker cuddling up to his side . “Throw in guns, bikes, sportscasts and a few ‘merican flags and you got the makin’s of a real jackpot!”
He certainly knows his market. Pike residents are fiercely proud of their independence. And they’ve always measured that independence by their ability to grow, cook and distribute illicit drugs without reprisal. Indeed, the counter-surveillance techinques used by the brazen traffickers are the some of the same techniques used by local law enforcement. It’s also the reason Bradshaw’s Tavern has a reputation for being the Barbary Coast of Down County.
“We got plenty of respect for the law,” claims Bradshaw. “Just as long as ‘ems laws we agree with.”
Yet despite his controversial views, and the occasional gun play that draws national attention, Bradshaw’s is a hoot. The music is loud. The patrons are colorful. And starting next month, Elmer and the “Gang” will offer a “Turn Back the Clock” night every Tuesday with specials on everything from beer on tap (fifty cents a mug) to nickel bags of pre-Mai Lai nRilesville Red (Flubug’s homegrown favorite).
“No doubt about it,” Elmer smiles. “Things is gonna get crazy.”
So hop on your bike (follow the signs!) and pull up to Bradshaw’s Tavern. And ladies, every night is wet t-shirt night with Hoseman Bill. So bring those yayas (come by yourself) and you won’t pay a cover!