Serving in Seaside for 23 Years and Counting

Aug 11, 2023Beach Life Magazine, Dining + Shopping, sip + savor

Bartender Mo Mosely has been greeting patrons and slinging drinks at Bud and Alley’s rooftop bar for 23 years (and counting). Back before Scenic 30A was the bustling, year-round destination that it is today, Bud and Alley’s was the only bar on 30A open late into the night.

Grabbing a drink at the Tarpon Club meant maneuvering and weaving through a throng of bodies—locals looking to unwind after a long shift at work, and tourists with empty, unfilled time spooling out before them.

At midnight, The Red Bar staff would fill spots around the bar, unraveling the day’s craziness to anyone who dared listen. And hidden behind folks standing five deep in front of the bar was Mo—weaving and pouring, eyebrows raised, a slight nod to let you know he saw you, knows what you want, and it’s in his mental queue.

“Bartending feels like being on a stage,” he said. “Behind the bar, I’m extroverted, but in front of the bar, I’m quiet and will sit there. On a busy night, well easily go through 200 shot glasses in a couple of hours. We want everybody to leave happy and wanting to come back. I always make it a point to offer a sincere thank you for tips and invite them back.”

His charisma and genuine interest in people are why so many repeat visitors can be heard ordering a drink that’s not listed on the menu.

Around 2001, customers began calling his margaritas “Mo-garitas,” and the moniker stuck.

“Everyone thinks it’s special when I make it,” he said. “I don’t know why. Its a really simple drink,” he said, shrugging his shoulders from behind the bar. Its just Patron, Grand Marnier, and a fresh sour mix. But people swear it tastes different when other bartenders make it. Maybe I pour a little strong?”

After a welcome post-lunch lull, tables with a Gulf view begin to fill in the late afternoon as everyone waits to see what spectacle Mother Nature will unleash at sunset. A blackboard quickly fills with names and “best guesses” of the precise time the sun dips below the watery horizon. It’s a fun tradition. Guess correctly, and win a drink. Guess incorrectly, and enjoy the spectacular view.

“We have a winner every night,” Mo said.

Nowadays, the Tarpon Club is larger, with new porches and expanded bar space. It looks fancier and feels less like a surf bar. But among the changes, a few things remain constant—Mo behind the bar, the sunset bell (although now with an electric ringer), attentive service, good food, gorgeous Gulf views, and cold drinks with a kick.

You’d think it might be difficult for Mo to pick a favorite memory after all those years, but it’s not. His eyes light up as he remembers two of his favorite moments from behind the bar.

“I got to watch the Braves win the World Series with Ron Grant! He was sitting at the bar, and we had it on the TV. That was incredible. And Jerry Jones. I’m a big Cowboys fan, but I never try to engage him. I remember one time he was up here, and he got to talking to this guy at another table about the guy’s son, who is autistic. They were talking about the type of physical therapy the son was getting. So Jerry goes and gets a piece of paper and writes out this full-page thing so the kid can go and use the Cowboy’s training facility for whatever he needs. I mean, it’s incredible to me that I get to see people do extraordinary things like that.”

When it comes to retirement, Mo frowns and shakes his head.
“Everyone wants to know when Im going to retire. I’m not! Why would I give this up?” he asked, gesturing at the brilliant blue Gulf waters.

What does Mo drink on vacation?

“I’ve been drinking the same thing for 30 years. Heineken and a shot of Grand Marnier at a good bar. That’s all I need.”

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