Photography by Danny Fulgencio.
Tradewinds Social Club is easy to miss. There’s no sign on the slate gray brick building. The gravel parking lot is empty during the day.
Constructed in the mid-1920s, the building at 2843 W. Davis once was home to an auto store and pizza joint. Tradewinds Social Club replaced those businesses in 1968. “It used to be an old school honky-tonk bar,” former manager Melissa Miller told the Advocate in 2011. “It wasn’t very lively.”
Now the 51-year-old bar is the quintessential dive. In an era of craft cocktails and small bites, Tradewinds serves Shiner and features a rotating cast of food trucks. Christmas lights outline the edge of the ceiling, and a worn-down railing in front of the bar has a hole labeled “stabby” in black Sharpie.
And thanks to bar manager Justin DiBernardo, jazz musicians, hardcore bands and house DJs set up for shows behind the bar several times a week. The California transplant and his friends hosted shows at their Long Beach home, and he’s brought the same DIY mentality to Tradewinds.
“When I first started here, it was only neighborhood people and the occasional touring band,” he says. “It was really spread out.”
The weekly line-up is eclectic, DiBernardo says. In March he organized South by Oak Cliff, where bands traveling through from North Carolina to Arizona played alongside local acts. Local jazz band Yells at Eels has graced Tradewind’s makeshift stage. Avant to Leave This Planet, an Avant-Garde performance series, visits Tradewinds monthly to the crowd’s mixed reactions.
“It’s over-the-top art,” he says. “Some people can’t even handle it.”
DiBernardo says a bartender is just a glorified babysitter, but he’s befriended many of the regulars, who range from lawyers to carpenters to former professional skateboarders. He’s even attending one couple’s wedding in November, and he bought Malort for native Chicagoans who frequent the bar.
“The people I want to be friends with outside this bar go here,” he says.