PANAMA: Bottle Alley Barkeep

It's a sorta habit, the tropics;

It gets you worse than rum. You get away and you swear you'll stay,

But she calls and back you come.

—From an old ballad

The day he stepped off a ship in the Panamanian town of Colón, the tropics got Max Bilgray, a Chicago barkeep done out of a living by the Volstead Act. That was 35 years ago, and Bilgray never even tried to get away. He became, instead, the best-known saloonkeeper in Caribbean latitudes, the boss of Colón's far-famed Tropic Bar and Restaurant. This New Year's, Bilgray's customers will as usual wrap their...

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