Cap’s Place: Back to the Future

Once a popular spot for bootleggers and pioneers, Cap’s Place is no ordinary dining experience.

0
655
Venice-Magazine-Winter-2014-Issue-In-Retrospect-Back-To-The-Future-Michaela-Greer-Caps-Place

By Michaela Greer

Stepping through the front door at the historic Cap’s Place restaurant is almost the equivalent of hopping into a time machine and being transported back some 80 years. You can almost hear jazz music faintly wafting through the wooden shacks, bouncing between the collages of black-and-white photographs that adorn the walls. It’s easy to imagine former co-owner Al Hasis diligently pouring patrons their favorite drinks while you admire the intricate carvings above the bar of the wooden bowsprit, taken from a Spanish galleon. Only you haven’t gone back in time, and the contented clinking of silverware snaps you back to reality.

Originally named Club Unique, Cap’s Place was founded in 1929 by Capt. Theodore “Cap” Knight, his wife, Lola, and Hasis, a brawny 16-year-old from Pennsylvania who befriended Cap. In true do-it-yourself fashion, the three owners built the establishment from wood and other materials that they acquired, including bamboo from the Everglades and wood from ship decks, which Hasis used for the bar that somehow amazingly remains unscathed today.

It is easy to wonder what secrets and stories the walls would utter if they could. They would probably tell of love stories, like that of Hasis and 1940s radio personality, Patricia McBride, who married after only two weeks of meeting at the very same bar that Hasis built. They may choose to talk about the years of innovative food served, such as turtle-egg pancakes, and contraband spirits that could have and almost resulted in jail time for one of the owners. Or, the walls might tell the stories of the many years of illegal gambling that went on in the restaurant or the various dignitaries, such as President Bill Clinton, who have dined there.

Unfortunately, walls do not talk, but Talle, Ted and Tom Hasis—present owners and children of Pat and Al Hasis—do. Talle recalls humorous times working at Cap’s Place, laughing as she reminisces about an incident where she sold drinking water out of pink teacups to gracious diners, much to her mother’s dismay.

“They say that an owner should never fall in love with their business, but I have,” Talle says. “When our parents died, we came together and decided that we couldn’t let Cap’s Place go. I’ve been working here since I was 8, washing dishes and peeling potatoes.”

Today, the siblings spend their days at the still-popular restaurant dispelling myths concocted by misled patrons, such as Cap’s Place being the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln. For the record, it is not. After a brief, charming ferry ride to the restaurant, prepare yourself to be hit with engaging stories while dining, for Cap’s Place is a real-life history lesson.

Originally appeared in the Winter 2014 issue.