Ball & Chain Club Brings Colorful History of Gangsters and Feuds Back to Little Havana
The year was 1935. The Great Depression was tailing off, Miami hosted the inaugural Orange Bowl, and Little Havana's Ball & Chain opened its doors. For the next two decades, the club became among the Magic City's most popular venues, a place where legends Billie Holiday and Chet Baker crooned the night away and jam sessions ran until 5 a.m.
Courtesy of Ball and Chain
With Ball & Chain set to reopen this fall, that glorious history is rightly being lauded. But there's another side to the golden-era club -- one populated with gangsters and highlighted by great feuds.
Most colorful among the bar's many owners were Henry Schechtman and Ray Miller, who bought the bar in the early '50s. A businessman and "well-known burglar" -- as noted by the Crime Commission of Greater Miami in a 1957 Miami News piece -- Schechtman was also owner of the nearby Tower Hotel. The not-so-smooth criminal was arrested twice in two months, once for breaking and entering into a Lincoln Road bar and a second time for attempting to pry open the trunk of a jeweler's car.
Miller, Schechtman's business partner, was a Teamsters Local 320 union organizer who, according to the Crime Commission, "attempted to organize doormen and car parkers in Miami Beach" and was tied to several acts of vandalism, including slashing 70 car tires.