A few years ago, one could have characterized Tampa Bay’s nightlife and bar scene as predictable. Seemingly limited to the beaches, downtown St. Pete and the Soho and Ybor City neighborhoods of Tampa, locals didn’t have many choices aside from the predictable options. However, the past few years kicked off a process of urban renewal in Tampa, exemplified by the new residential towers that seemed to appear over night in downtown. This development coincides with a blossoming of new restaurants, shops, bars and other unique businesses, and not only in the center of the city. Similar effects are visible in the redevelopment of downtown St. Petersburg. Here we’ll explore how the revitalized centers of Tampa and St. Pete translate into a vibrant bar scene worthy of any big city with five favorite new bars that opened this year, in addition to a bar with a unique concept scheduled to open in the near future.
The Beer Garden At Green Bench Brewing Company
1133 Baum Ave. N.
St. Petersburg, FL 33705
Named after the more than 2,000 green benches that used to line the streets of downtown St. Petersburg, Green Bench Brewing Company seeks to serve a similar function for the residents as a place for discussion, sharing and fun. Brewmaster Khris Johnson boasts award-winning experience as a member of Cigar City Brewing, Peg’s Cantina Brewpub in Gulfport, Southern Brewing and Tampa Bay Brewing Company. While the featured seasonal beers change over time, some classics available year round include the IPA, the milk stout, the brown ale and wheat beers. An exquisitely modern interior and floor-to-ceiling windows bring light from outside in, and the newly constructed Beer Garden definitely merits a visit for days and nights when the weather is right.
CopperFish Seafood Grill And Oyster Bar
1502 S. Howard Ave.
Tampa, FL 33606
Lauded as one of Tampa’s best new restaurants of the year by the Tampa Bay Times, CopperFish deserves a visit for its cuisine alone. Restauranteur Gordon Davis, the man behind several successful Tampa culinary institutions (Boca Kitchen, Smoke BBQ and Ceviche to name a few) returns with another winning concept: fresh ingredients and fancy libations in a kitsch, comfortable ambiance. Don’t miss creative cocktails such as the Pink Vespa and oyster shooters, as well as a wine menu that rotates monthly. CopperFish also offers a daily happy hour from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. with special dishes and reduced prices for beer, wine and cocktails. If you get hunger pangs in the process, you can try a variety of local fish and seafood without having to get up from your seat.
Cigar City Brewpub
15491 N. Dale Mabry Highway
Tampa, FL 33618
A rare find in the Carrolwood neighborhood of Tampa, Cigar City Brewery took over a space that used to house a TGI Friday’s restaurant to create its new pub. Brewed at the same location, the selection of beer sets the Brewpub apart from the typical bar, with some varieties only available on the premises, and others only during specific seasons. The head brewer for Cigar City, Tim Ogden has devised several unique flavors of beer for the company, including the Tocobaga Red Ale, the espresso Brown Ale and the Guava Grove Farmhouse Ale. With 24 taps at maximum capacity available for tasting, we’re not likely to become bored any time soon. The restaurant menu, a fusion of Cuban and American classics, doesn’t stand out like the ales but does ensure you won’t go hungry with several yummy choices.
Paddy Wagon’s Irish Pub
808 N. Franklin St., Suite 130
Tampa, FL 33602
As downtown Tampa’s first Irish pub on the East side of the Hillsborough River, Paddywagon brings a modern spin on this classic bar theme. Strong drinks and relatively low prices make it feel like a dive bar for your wallet, yet without the disadvantages of a dark, musty feel. Instead, Paddywagon has a fun, corner bar atmosphere that mixes locals and newcomers. Attentive and efficient service ensures clients never feel neglected. Looking to have fun with friends? Try the free dart boards, pool table, trivia and a number of games downloadable to mobile devices. Those sensative to smoking beware, Paddywagon allows smoking inside. On the other hand, a ventilation system lessens the severity of the smell.
The Canopy Rooftop Lounge At The Birchwood
340 Beach Drive N.E.
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
One of the first and only open rooftop lounges in the Tampa Bay area, downtown St. Pete’s latest addition, The Canopy at The Birchwood Hotel opened in May and boasts much more than just incredible views. With Miami Beach-style cabanas, fire pits, comfortable seating and great appetizers like flatbreads, truffle fries, a charcuterie plate and duck tacos to munch on, what more could one want? What the beer list lacks in inventiveness, the Canopy makes up for with its cocktails. Some drink specialties include the blackberry mint julep, the dragonberry mojito, the strawberry rhubarb cooler and the lavender martini. Relaxed and unpretentious, this makes the ideal after-work spot for a moment of respite, as well as the perfect date night destination for a romantic sunset.
1719 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33606
With four bowling lanes, Ducky’s promises to be anything but the typical bar or pub. Behind its development, this brand new bar that opened December 14 is backed by famed Tampa Bay Rays third baseman, Evan Longoria, and nearly one million dollars of capital investment. Chef Frankie Midulla of Valencia Gardens is constantly developing the final menu, but Longoria has revealed that Ducky’s features New York thin-crust pizzas, deviled crab, steak sandwiches and sausage sliders. Located near the University of Tampa and downtown, with plenty of huge TV screens available for sporting events, it’s no doubt that the bar will develop a loyal following.
Aaron Phillips has experience in marketing and journalism. Recently back to his hometown, he’s excited to discover and share what Tampa has to offer. His work can be found at Examiner.com.