Though many of Florida's Space Coast barrier-island residents fled for safety Monday morning, Hunkerdown Hideaway employees in downtown Cocoa Beach vowed to remain open "till the police shut us down."
"The bar stays open until the police say, 'No more,'" said Katrina Northrup, general manager, sitting on the sunny patio at 10 a.m. Monday.
Stone Temple Pilots and The Scorpions rocked over outdoor speakers, and chatting patrons filled the barstools inside the small tavern at Minutemen Causeway and State Road A1A. Televisions displayed Hurricane Dorian newscasts and weather updates.
"We're the Hunkerdown Hideaway. It's what we do. We're the hurricane bar. Everything else is closed. It's a good opportunity for us," Northrup said.
"And it gives our regular customers a place to be while their houses are all boarded up - and get out of our caves for a little bit," she said.
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Cocoa Beach police ordered Hunkerdown Hideaway to close in 2017 amid Hurricane Irma's increasing gusts. A colorful component of Florida beach town culture, various watering holes along SR A1A pledged to remain open as long as possible as Dorian approached.
Effective at 8 a.m. Monday, Brevard County emergency officials issued a mandatory evacuation order for beachside residents, ranging from Kennedy Space Center southward to Sebastian Inlet. Merritt Island is included in this mix.
Hunkerdown Hideaway marked its ninth anniversary in August, and the bar's predecessors remained open during hurricanes.
"They have a room back there where I've spent three hurricanes. We'd bring mattresses up here. And they would say, 'OK, we can hang out together and we'll all be together.' It was a wonderful thing," recalled Cocoa Beach attorney Chris Holland, sitting in the bar Monday morning on a blue padded bench emblazoned with a red Cat 5 logo.
"You'd meet friends you never knew you had. And you'd meet neighbors that you never knew were important - but neighbors are always important," he said.
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Holland said he planned to remain beachside during Dorian to help care for his 91-year-old neighbor.
"My favorite part of a hurricane is the camaraderie the day before. (Sunday) night, this place was so packed you couldn't even move," Holland said.
"You'd see friends you haven't seen since the last hurricane, or last Christmas Eve. This town is so different than anywhere I've ever lived," he said.
By 5 p.m. Monday, all essential Cocoa Beach city emergency personnel were scheduled to report to the fire station or the water reclamation facility for the duration of the storm. Police officers were expected to remain on patrol until road conditions become too unsafe.
Follow Rick Neale on Twitter: @rickneale1
This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Hurricane Dorian: Florida 'hurricane bar' caters to those who stay