The Tamboo Club Echoes With History

Once upon a Bahamian lore, a tribe of fishermen would set off on their small fishing boat dubbed “Tamboo” for their daily catch. The tribe built a small house on a hill overlooking what is now the channel to the marina, to watch the sunset and smoke cigars. Then along came part-time gangster, and founder of sorts of Great Harbour Cay, Lou Chesler. Lou stumbled upon this house, expanded upon it, converted it into a restaurant, tapped into its roots and thus “The Tamboo Club” was born.

Well into the 60s, The Tamboo Club became a must-stop for tourists, made famous by its wall over the fireplace where guests would sign their names and leave a mark in history. While business was booming, Lou sensed more potential and wanted to go further. By establishing an upscale private dinning club, Lou hoped to attract more celebrities that would then attract more crowds. Earl Blackwell was hired to spearhead this new initiative. Construction kicked off in 1970 for the clubhouse and already, big names and starlets like Dame Margot Fonteyn and Bridget Bardot were drawn to the excitement.

Earl and co-founder Frank Shields kept the old Tamboo name and began selling shares of this thriving business to the local homeowners and celebrities that were calling Great Harbour Cay a second home. Among the founding members were household names like Walter Cronkite, Douglas Fairbanks, Cary Grant and Barend van Gerbil.

The grand opening of the upscale Tamboo Club was in December 31, 1971. Business took a turn when most of the founding members didn’t even frequent the venue and as a result, there weren’t enough guests to supplement the high operating costs. By 1976, things went downhill and management began to subsidize the business. The club is now closed, unfortunately, but the building still stands. Maybe some day, there will be another Lou Chesler who swoops in, recognizes the potential in the waterfront property and turns it into the next decadent stomping ground. The ghosts of the past are here and you’ll feel them. Not in a creepy way, but in a way that makes you feel grateful for hanging out in the company of history. Do you know a developer or investor that would be interested in buying the property? Will you be the next Lou Chesler? We’ll have to wait and see what the next chapter has in store for the historical landmark.