Hotel Magnate Adds a Gulf Side Roadhouse to His Venues

Old Dutch

The story of the Old Dutch doesn’t end with hard times during WWII. Instead, it goes big-time. A hotel chain owner, Cliff Stiles, purchased the Old Dutch, a year before the end of the war.  At the time, Mr. Cliff Stiles owned many hotels through the southeast.

Much like the originator of the Old Dutch, Frank Burghduff, and Cliff Stiles arrived in Panama City in the late 30’s. He had recently acquired the tallest building in Panama City, the Dixie Sherman Hotel.

The new owner of the Old Dutch knew very well how to operate nightclub venues and he also had a vast pool of talent to select from, given the volume of acts that played in his establishments.

The United States was slowly recovering from WWII and, by the end of the 40’s, there were new cars available. Gas was also plentiful and there was money to spend. Panama City Beach experienced a boom in tourism.

By 1950, the Old Dutch was the prime destination for many young adults, and a daydream for the underage. The Old Dutch did not turn a blind eye to age requirements, but they didn’t have 20/20 vision either.

The art of fake ID’s was refined by high school students throughout the southeast. Gaining entry into the Old Dutch, as a teenager, was a thrilling right of passage and provided the young scofflaw with eternal bragging rights. Rock n Roll was the juice that made the Old Dutch becoming more than simply a roadhouse; it became the original ‘beach club’.

The tourism boom continued to go up the scale, in the 50’s. During the birth of rock-n-roll, there were a few competitors for the entertainment dollar, on Panama City Beach. The strongest competition was probably from the ‘Hang Out’ in Long Beach Resort. The Hang Out did not have live entertainment and they sold only beer. The “all adult” atmosphere of the Old Dutch meant it was completely packed, shoulder to shoulder, every night of the summer. There were no crowd limits, in that era, and in the center of the club would hang a smoky, humid mist. Hoards of young people, like wild caribou, would migrate through the Old Dutch, over the course of any summer.

Old Dutch 1960 Roadhouse
Old Dutch Panama City Beach 1960

Late in the 50’s a pair of Old Dutch musicians were arrested for growing marijuana next to their apartment. I’m sure the constant attention required to keep a plant alive in the area’s sandy soil was their undoing. The Old Dutch continued to grow in reputation and popularity; in profitability too, apparently. Cliff Stiles divested his other properties and began to personally operate the Old Dutch with his wife.

 

The 60’s saw no slow down in the popularity of the Old Dutch, only the dances changed. By the 70’s, however, there was much more nightclub competition on the beach and the Old Dutch stucco was looking a little shabby.

Old Dutch 1970 Roadhouse
Old Dutch Panama City Beach 1970

 

The stucco was thoroughly washed in 1975, by hurricane Eloise. The Old Dutch foundation was badly eroded and determined to be damaged beyond repair. In 1976 the Old Dutch was demolished. A multi-story corporate hotel sits on the property today.

The list of entertainers that performed at the Old Dutch is a long list of recognizable stars. That story will be subject of another blog.

6 thoughts on “Hotel Magnate Adds a Gulf Side Roadhouse to His Venues

  1. Pingback: From the Stage at the Old Dutch to the Opening Act for the Beatles - OldPanamaCityBeach.com

  2. Pingback: Captain of the 'Tarpon' Goes Down with His Ship Near PCB - OldPanamaCityBeach.com

  3. Skip says:

    I knew Mr. Stiles personally as my Dad did all the AC service work once he divested into the Redmont in B’ham San Carlos in Pennascola and Old Dutch/ Holiday Inn. He built the first Holiday Inn in PC next to the OD. He was told me that he made 66K a week on his Holiday Inn stock as he was the largest owner of their stock at that time. What a character. He took me to my first Alabama game. I went on a truck when I was 8 years old working as my Dads helper. Mr Stiles had grown up working the peanut farms in So. Ga. and he liked me because I worked hard and never complained. While I would never want to tarnish his name the fact is Mrs Stiles seldom left the penthouse of the Redmont for Fla. other than to visit Helen or maybe Ellen (their daughter) in Pennascola. this was largely due to the that Mr. Stiles well—he liked the night life so to speak. He taught me a lot- I was 8 when I met him and 15 when he died playing craps in vegas and it was a very sad day for me as he was the only person who would say “sit down lets talk a minute” I would reply “I got to work or I’m in trouble” and he would say “hell son I’m paying so sit down” of course when my Dad showed up looking for what he had sent me for then Mr Stiles would tell him to sit down too. He was a very interesting guy but he was very lonely in those final years. In any event I always liked and respected him.

    • Kenny Redd says:

      Skip, that’s a great story. I wish I had met the Mr. Stiles too. I have met some of his family. His daughters and nephews and nieces were all very friendly and have appeared to have inherited his kindhearted personality. He and his brothers had the intrinsic ability to make money. As a nightclub, the Old Dutch set the bar very high. I don’t think any Florida beach club has spawned so many top-name talents in American entertainment. Thanks for that engaging and enlightening comment.

    • George Peele Byrd says:

      Skip, I too recall fond memories (1961-1962) of Mr. Stiles (owner), Mr. Trammell (manager), “Scottie” (bouncer) and Jackie Hand (head-bartender) of the “Old Dutch”, as I was singer/entertainer along with our group, “The Shamrocks”, from Chattanooga TN, as we were the house-band…My, my, what a fantastic opportunity and “party-time” we experienced! “Those were the days!” Great folks”, Mr. Stiles, Mr. Trammell and our many “P.C.B.” local fans and patrons!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *