The Fat Pelican – Carolina Beach, NC

Jessica from Greensboro, NC sent us some information on The Fat Pelican, a dive in Carolina Beach that holds a special place in her heart.

After getting married on the nearby sand in 2018, Jessica and her husband hit up this beer-and-wine-only bar to celebrate and contribute to the graffiti that seems to adorn every flat surface. It’s tradition to leave your name somewhere, and Jessica wrote down their initials and the wedding date. The couple plans to return every year to make a new mark!

So what, besides this romantic story, makes The Fat Pelican so special? Five words: self-serve walk-in cooler. At this joint, the bartender checks your ID, and then you get to go into the cooler and choose from over 400 varieties of beer.This cooler is, in fact, the refrigerated trailer of an eighteen-wheeler. The original owner bought it for a whopping $2,000.

It’s no wonder this place’s motto is “Beer is Love.”

The Fat Pelican has what The Dive Bar Tourist considers the dive bar trifecta:

  1. Something unique (a.k.a. the cooler!)
  2. An interesting atmosphere
  3. An owner who is one hell of a character

The Fat Pelican is set up in a building that used to be a garage, but most of the structure burned down sometime around 1951. Jim Kelly renovated the building and made it into a beer and wine store in 1986. Six short years later, he started selling beer and wine for consumption.

Jim eventually turned over the reins to the current owner, Danny McLaughlin. Danny served during the Vietnam War and then catered for rock stars like Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones. He fell in love with Carolina Beach and decided to make The Fat Pelican a part of his own rich history.

Jim started the Pelican’s legendary 4thof July bikini contest (because every great beach dive needs a bikini contest!), but Danny added events like the Halloween contest and bangin’ BBQs.

Danny describes the ambience of his bar as “trailer park chic.” DBT might call it “beach shack chic.” The patio décor (if it can really be called a patio) looks like a collection of stuff that got washed up on shore. Weather-worn benches and stools, swings, and a repurposed boat (yes, a boat) make up the outdoor seating options. An old truck cap provides shade in one section.

Indoors, the walls are cluttered with a mix of nautical junk and beer signs, as well as old street signs. You’ll find friendly staff working the bar and even a small arcade for entertainment. Be sure to play the bowling game to see if you can become the next bowling champ! (If you have trouble finding the game, look under the sign that says “Asshole Alley.”)

Thanks for telling us about this hidden dive bar gem, Jessica!

Location: Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Be sure to try: a beer! Duh!

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