Rum shops are quintessential gathering points in Tobago and throughout the Caribbean. Alongside beach bars they are great places for visitors to meet locals
Green Shop (aka Pumpy’s), Canaan
Rum shops aren’t known for their amenities. The more traditional ones are little wooden shacks attached to someone’s house, or perhaps standing alone on the side of a road or street corner. In Canaan, Green Shop – or Pumpy’s as the locals call it – is a rum shop of old that’s simply grown a little bigger. The simple wooden shack has a three-man bench out front for people watching and a short bar inside with not much on offer but rum, ice and chasers – only now there are a few more benches. Here, rum is the great equaliser: Pumpy’s is popular with old-timer locals, the drop-in-after-work crowd and late-night crews who stop for a quick “prime up” before heading to nightspots such as Shade and Illusions.
• Opposite Milford Court, Canaan. Open “any day, any time”
Bago’s Beach Bar, Pigeon Point
Mixing Caribbean charm, funky tunes and its own beach with sea grape trees for shade, Bago’s Beach Bar is described by regulars as an “elegant rum shop”. It’s a perfect spot for the sunset crowd after a long, hard day of beach activities. There is also a nightly happy hour from 7pm to 8pm, and karaoke on Saturdays.
• Pigeon Point Entrance, Coco Reef End. Open “any day, any time”
Ocean View Bar, Shirvan Road
In Tobago, a “lime” is not just something you use to garnish your rum and coke. It is also the name for any impromptu “hanging-out” session. For locals, the after-work, Friday-night lime is one of the most popular reasons to visit a rum shop. Ocean View Bar is more popular than most, perhaps because of the food on offer on Fridays, which can include a roadside barbecue and, if you’re timely, local delicacies such as fish broth and souse (meat or seafood marinated in vinegar with hot pepper, onion and cucumber). Aside from the bar, there is no inside to Ocean View: drinks are consumed at the many tables perched on the cliffside under a makeshift roof. The view is impressive, for sure.
• Pleasant Prospect, Shirvan Road. Open “any day, any time”
Surfers Beach Bar, Mount Irvine Beach
Located in the middle of Mount Irvine Beach, Surfers is a metre from the seashore. With its great views and amenities, including lots of cabanas, it’s a great spot from which to pass the day. Those looking for more than a quick nip usually buy rum by the bottle (half-flask or full-bottle), a small bucket of ice and a soft drink or water as a mixer.
• Shirvan Road, Mount Irvine Beach. Open “every day, all day”
Bacolet Beach bar, Scarborough
With its own private cove, treehouse seating and abundant shade, this is a hidden gem of a beach bar. Cocktails are readily available on the split-level veranda and the secluded beach is often empty. The music is wide-ranging, from chill Ibiza to Caribbean “riddims”.
• 73 Bacolet Street, Scarborough. Open 10am-6pm
Buccaneers Bar, Black Rock
Buccaneers Bar is a great place for families. Situated on the long and usually calm Grafton Beach (also called Stonehaven Bay by locals), the bar is a good place to catch some shade, order a rum cocktail or grab a snack. The fare isn’t too creative – the sort of grilled-fish sandwiches and burgers that kids devour while adults have a moment’s calm.
• Stonehaven Bay, Black Rock. Open 10am-6pm
Glasgow’s Bar, Parlatuvier
Glasgow’s is an impressive two-floor bar located on the crest of a hill, with an airy top deck and a panoramic view of Parlatuvier Bay. This is the picture postcard, and the epic scenery makes the rum and cocktails taste better. Located on the roadside between villages, Glasgow’s Bar has many regulars who can answer most questions, such as where to buy fresh lobster or how many times the island changed hands in sea battles between European nations (33, for those interested). Alan Glasgow, the proprietor, is often on hand to socialise and entertain visitors, too.
• Northside Road, Parlatuvier. Open “any day, any time”
Eco Sport, Windward Road
Traditionally, rum shops are a spur-of-the-moment pit stop. You take a walk or a drive, the heat makes you thirsty and you stop to sink one. A drink turns into an hour, and the hour into a day. With great views of the Atlantic and Granby Bay, Eco Sport is one such spot. If you’re heading north, it’s a great place to take a time out before moving on.
• Studley Park, Windward Road. Open 11am-9pm
Institute of Maureen Affairs (IOMA), Scarborough
Another popular local “liming” spot is the Institute of Maureen Affairs. Not strictly a rum shop or a beach bar – more a beer garden, IOMA is located on Scarborough promenade, overlooking Rockley Bay. It’s a good place to watch the larger ships come in and also to catch the sunset. Run by the effervescent Maureen Denoon-Rogers, IOMA is also popular with locals coming off the inter-island ferry, who stop by for “beastly cold beers”. Live entertainment is provided on Friday and Sunday nights.
• Milford Road Esplanade, Scarborough. Open 5pm-10pm, with occasional “breakfast parties” on Sundays from 5am-11am
Lyda’s Rum Shop, Charlotteville
Charlotteville is a picturesque fishing village in the far north of the island. It’s removed from any hustle and bustle, and here you’ll find one of the few rum shops on the island that is still a small, wooden shack. Villagers come to hide from the hot sun, talk, and enjoy the rum and scenery by the sea wall. Visitors are always welcome and, if you stay long enough, you’ll get a first-hand account of how and why rum shops were once important social institutions in villages up and down the Caribbean.
• Charlotteville Main Road. Open “any day, any time”
Dylan Kerrigan is an anthropologist at The University of the West Indies and writes regularly for the Trinidad Guardian. He lives in Port of Spain
Link to article: feeds.theguardian.com/c/34708/f/663875/s/31e79efb/sc/10/l/0L0Stheguardian0N0Ctravel0C20A130Coct0C0A10Ctop0E10A0Ebeach0Ebars0Erun0Eshops0Etobago0Ecaribbean/story01.htm