A looming crisis at the Flora-Bama Lounge

J. Layne Smith

Editor’s note: Keep in mind that April 1 is April Fools’ Day.

Q. My brother Denny works for the Florida Senate. He says Florida is negotiating the sale of Escambia County to Alabama. Do you know if there is any truth to the rumor? Ethel

A. Yes, indeed. It’s my understanding that both states are nearing an agreement to reconfigure the states’ borders. Let’s explore each state’s motivations and the potential problems the sale will cause.

Alabama covets the Port of Pensacola and has long desired to increase its coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. Alabama intends to finance the purchase price by applying a portion of the real estate and sales taxes it collects from its new residents over the next thirty years. 

Florida desires the sale because it wants to eliminate the budget deficit caused by COVID-19 and pay for three significant infrastructure projects. Florida intends to use the cash infusion to restore the Everglades, eliminate toll roads, and build new roads and bridges. 

Upwards of $20 million are at stake!

Both states seem to want to close the deal. Still, they are taking additional time to think through the implications and unintended consequences. 

For example, will Alabama honor the licenses Florida has issued to Escambia County residents? Will local roofers need to obtain Alabama roofing licenses? Will Alabama accept Pensacola lawyers’ Florida Bar memberships, or do they have to pass the Alabama Bar. 

Suppose a Pensacola resident recently prepaid Florida for a two-year car tag. Will she still have to buy an Alabama tag? And can college students from Pensacola continue paying in-state tuition to attend FSU or UF? 

Just yesterday, I spoke to my friend Bubba Evans, a patron of the famous Flora-Bama Lounge. For openers, what about its liquor license? Also, this bar straddles both states’ borders and hosts an annual mullet toss.

According to Bubba, a mullet toss happens when a person standing on the Florida side of the beach throws a mullet across Alabama’s state line and vice-versa. 

Bubba is concerned about the impact Florida’s sale of Escambia County will have on his favorite watering hole. He said, “I’m afraid the mullet toss will lose half of its glamor if they have to change the name to the Bama-Bama Lounge. I mean, where’s the fun in throwing a fish in the same state!” 

Where, indeed?

Transitioning to politics, if Alabama absorbs Escambia County’s population, it stands to pick up one seat in Congress and one electoral vote. Likewise, the loss of Escambia County’s population will lessen Florida’s clout in Congress and the electoral college.

Both states’ legislatures are currently conducting secret negotiations in Montgomery to iron out the issues. My sources advise leaders from both states are likely to announce the terms on April 1, 2021. 

In other words, happy April Fool’s day to you–you’ve been pranked! And no actual Bubba was misquoted in the production of this column. 

J. Layne Smith is the author of “Civics, Law, and Justice—How We Became U.S.” Lookout for his new book “Oswald on Trial—Making Sense of the Evidence.”