Raising the Bar: Hardwicks

Words by Kelila Ritchie


“Refreshing, welcoming and different.”


These are three words Sarah Merritt used to describe her new gig as a bartender at Hardwicks Bar. Located in the Elbow District Downtown (in the old London Bridge space), Hardwicks is the perfect place to go if you want to feel like you’re in an ’80s film with disco balls and strobe lights. And with a full liquor bar, beer, wine, seltzer, cocktails and shots are all on the menu.


My favorite thing, for sure, about this establishment is the freedom it holds. It’s a place where people who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community are able to just be themselves in a space 100% free of judgment. It was beautiful seeing men dance together and sing together and just be, which is something that I don’t see often! I feel like in almost every direction I looked, there were people hugging and embracing each other. It was truly just full of love.


I asked Sarah, what is your favorite thing about working at Hardwicks?


“The people that I’ve met. It’s definitely a family already. We have great customers already, regulars coming in. It has been a very refreshing experience and everyone is really excited to be here,” she replied. 


The first major LGBTQIA+ bar to open in Jacksonville in two decades, Hardwicks does not disappoint. The ambiance is so lowkey but fun. In addition to the disco ball, strobe lights and disco music making you feel like you’re in your own little world, there is a dancefloor/stage area where drag nights take place featuring some of Jacksonville’s favorite queens. The bar also just announced their new drag series called Hardwick’s Hotspot Heroines every Thursday night featuring performers from Hamburger Mary’s. 


As aesthetically pleasing as Hardwick’s may be, the drinks are even better. Personally, I am much more of a “just a shot for me” type of girl and they were generous with the pour, I will say! The drink menu is extensive and “That Thique” really stole my heart (I am a huge fan of puns plus extra cool points for the Beyonce reference.) On the more classic side, my best friend ordered the margarita which also did not disappoint. 


As a Jacksonville native, I am so excited to see what events Hardwicks pulls out of their bag of tricks to bring more life to Jacksonville. So far, they have been booked and busy with Pride events and even fundraising for Hamburger Mary’s. I think it is incredibly important, especially in today’s society, that the LGBTQ+ community has a space that feels secure to them. A space where they don’t have to act how society wants them to act but just be authentically themselves: a safe space. As soon as you walk in, it just feels like a big hug of sorts. P.S. There’s just something so real and comforting about hearing the whole club sing along to “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper. You just had to be there!


This new bar has been nothing short of a great time every time I visit. If this hasn’t been on your go-to bar list, write it down now. I promise you won’t regret it! Stop by and get a handcrafted Old Fashioned (Sarah’s favorite drink to make) during their happy hour and make some new friends! 

About Kelila Ritchie

Kelila has dedicated her teenage years to advocating for injustices around her and in the world. Journalism is more than just a passion for her but a calling. She is dedicated to keeping her community informed and spreading awareness about social inequalities. Catch her on the beach any given weekend!