Downtown Tampa's Fly Bar & Restaurant to close this month, relocate next year

It's the end of an era for the pioneering year-round haunt.

click to enlarge Downtown Tampa's Fly Bar & Restaurant, which will relocate from its longtime digs in spring 2019. - Shanna Gillette
Shanna Gillette
Downtown Tampa's Fly Bar & Restaurant, which will relocate from its longtime digs in spring 2019.

After 13 years of pioneering downtown Tampa's nightlife scene, Fly Bar & Restaurant has announced that it plans to relocate. The year-round haunt will close shop at 1202 N. Franklin St. on Sept. 28.

"Can't say exactly where yet, but we're staying in downtown Tampa," owner Leslie Shirah told CL, adding that she just finalized the sale of the 4,755-square-foot space Fly has called home for more than a decade. (Property records show that Shirah paid $1.39 million for it in 2007.)

The build-out and renovation at Fly's new location, which will be more intimate than the current site, should wrap up by spring 2019, and more details are expected to come in through a 3 p.m. press release.

UPDATE: According to the release, the property deal is between Shirah and the downtown development company behind The Franklin Manor, Osteria, Mole y Abuela and a fourth venue to be disclosed at a future date. Mole y Abuela will take over the original location for Fly, whose new location is coming to the Channel District. Fly's current management team — including the chef, beverage director and general manager — will remain intact. Celebrity chef Fabio Viviani, a partner in Osteria, will also be involved in Mole y Abuela, partner Lanfranco Pescante told the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

"We are thrilled for this new evolution of the Fly brand and the opportunity to introduce the downtown Tampa/Channelside area to our signature eclectic style," Shirah said. "We look forward to opening our new doors very soon and continuing to serve the downtown Tampa community for many years to come."

One last blowout is also scheduled for Fly. During its farewell celebration, which runs through the rest of September (aka "Retro Month"), the restaurant and bar will bring back several menu favorites, including the goat cheese appetizer and a CL go-to, ropa vieja. Our former food critic, Brian Ries, described the latter like this:

"...a monumental pile of ropa vieja hidden under stacks of deep-fried plantain chips, easily meat enough for dinner, as well as breakfast and lunch the following day," Ries wrote in a 2012 review of Fly. "The beef is shredded and juicy, laced with peppery heat and a touch of sweetness, with enough green olives to give it a burst of briny salt in alternating bites, for a mere $9."

Shirah, who also owns downtown Tampa's Hotel Bar, sounded excited about the future when she spoke with CL on Wednesday.

"We're bringing back all the things people were sad about when we took them off the menu," she said.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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