By Samantha Lambert
Jerry Dorminy of Birmingham, Alabama loved the sun and fun of Florida’s Gulf Coast. In the 1970s, he wanted to open a watering hole where he and his friends could hang out at night after a day of fishing and sailing. Dorminy opened up the Hog’s Breath Saloon in Fort Walton Beach in 1976. It was located just over the Brooks Bridge on the north side of Okaloosa Island.
The Hog’s Breath Saloon immediately became the place for local watermen and women and the military to hang out and have a good time. It was a rustic place that had a bar with a huge boar’s head attached to it and peanut shells crunching on the floor when you walked in. Hog’s Breath also became popular with local college students in the summer and on holiday breaks. The original Hog’s Breath is also famous for having a scene from the blockbuster sequel Jaws 2 filmed there in 1977.
In 1988, Dorminy decided to open a Hog’s Breath Saloon in Key West where watersports and fishing were also popular. The Key West location is on Duval Street and has become the most popular locals bar on Duval. It is also a big hit with tourists.
After Hurricane Opal hit the Gulf Coast in 1995, Dorminy decided to open a Hog’s Breath location in Destin. He had already been in the planning stages for that move when the hurricane hit—he saw that the demographics were changing in Destin and it was growing. The Destin location opened up just a half mile east of the Destin Bridge on Highway 98.
In 2001, Dorminy hired Jason Thompson as a consultant to the Hog’s Breath Saloon, but Thompson soon became the manager. Thompson, an Alabama native, came to the area in 2000 to work as a chef at another Destin restaurant.
“The Destin Hog’s Breath Saloon became very food and family-oriented, but we still had the bar,” says Thompson. The Destin location also has a huge room upstairs with the original bar from the Fort Walton location. This room is used for sports viewing, private parties, even rehearsal dinners. There are lots of specials during football season on both food and drinks.
Hog’s Breath is also world famous for its t-shirt line. The shirts carry the famous logo of the boar’s head and the saying Hog’s Breath is better than no breath at all. You can travel anywhere in the world and recognize it. Dorminy’s mother originated the saying. She used to say, “Bad breath is better than no breath at all.”
This year, a special t-shirt has been printed commemorating the 40th anniversary of Hog’s Breath.
Fort Walton Beach native Angie Scott has fond memories of going to the original Hog’s Breath as a college student in the late ‘70s. “We would go there with our friends on Sunday afternoons to hang out for awhile,” she says. “There were no sports bars then. We would stand around and talk and have a drink.”
Mike McMain, a Fort Walton Beach transplant via his father’s transfer in 1966, started going to the original Hog’s in the late ‘70s as well. “(It) was always busy,” he says. “I liked it there because they always had local bands playing, and those were people we knew. I think that also helped Hog’s Breath become a locals spot.”
“I would go to Hog’s Breath in Fort Walton when I was home from college and in the summers back in the late ‘70s,” says Charles Rigdon, another Fort Walton Beach native. “After graduating from college, I lived on Okaloosa Island for awhile, and we would always start the night at the Breath and usually end up there later. We could walk to all of the popular night spots on the island back then like Pandora’s and the Robert E. Lee.”
Rigdon adds that he got to know Jerry Dorminy back then and what a great guy he was.
Dorminy passed away in 2006. His family still owns the Destin and Key West Hog’s Breath locations. “Forty years have passed, and Hog’s Breath is still locally owned,” says Thompson. “We have had many promotions this year celebrating the 40th anniversary. On Thanksgiving night, we’ll have our annual event featuring the Beatles tribute band Roshambeatles.” That band is made up of members of Roshambo along with popular solo performer Chris Hayes.