“Join us today and be transported to an era filled with nostalgia, where the drinks are poured strong and camaraderie flows freely,” the bar—located at 123 S Hyde Park Ave.—wrote on social media.
There's no cover for the 85th anniversary of The Retreat in Tampa on Saturday, Nov. 4.
What does it take for a bar to outlast decades of growth, construction, and changing demographics? Cheap drink specials, attentive bartenders and proximity to work and home don’t hurt, but there’s an intangible element to long-running establishments. One thing that sets The Retreat apart is its unique ability to cater to a diverse crowd, from dive bar aficionados to craft beer enthusiasts and everyone in between. Notable examples of this include the Narragansett tap that’s sandwiched between a proper nitro Guinness and Cigar City’s Jai Alai IPA, as well as a hearty spirits selection that ranges from standard crowd favorites all the way to the pricey Clase Azul tequila.
Although the bar is located within close proximity to the University of Tampa’s campus, management, which refers to the bar as The Retreat Tampa, insists they don’t want to be labeled as a college bar, and the happy hour crowd is anything but academic. The bar stools at that time are likely to be filled with service industry members and jovial regulars who hold court at the end of the bar and smoke cigars while bullshitting with the bartenders. Locals also know The Retreat is an unofficial pre and post Gasparilla hangout. On parade day, the bar hosts an all-day affair that would make Jose Gaspar proud.
The vintage cigarette machine is no longer around, but management has no intention of eliminating indoor smoking, welcome sentiment for those who have seen their favorite dives eschew the habit in favor of a new generation that prefers a vape pen over a Marlboro. It should be mentioned, though, that the high ceilings and efficient smoke eaters inside help negate the issue, but non-smokers are welcome to enjoy their beverages on the outdoor patio if they prefer.
The room adjacent to the main bar hosts a plethora of gaming options, from basketball and darts to Golden Tee and three pool tables. There’s also a large projection screen that shows all of the big games as well as the latest addition to the space, a photobooth. The TouchTunes machine on any given day plays a range of typical bar anthems and current top hits.
Since reopening post-pandemic, The Retreat began offering limited food options like hot dogs and chips and queso. Patrons looking for something a little more substantial can order from Izzy’s Tacos food truck outside on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and are welcome to bring the selection of tacos, nachos and quesadillas into the bar.
Although The Retreat opened as a bar in 1938, the address has been home to a host of concepts, according to the Tampa Tribune. Milano’s a restaurant with a bottle of chianti in a straw baskets, once resided there, along with Dave’s Grill, The Peanut Gallery, and The Mousetrap.`
In 2009, according to the Tribune, the bar actually had to fight to keep its permit, after neighbors at First Baptist opposed plans to expand alcohol sales. The Retreat’s rich history—including city maps, old photos and customer affidavidts—actually saved the liquor license.
Although G I Entertainment & Restaurant Group (which also runs Green Iguana and Hula Bay) doesn’t own the building, longtime manager Jeremy Lane assured Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that The Retreat is here to stay.
Let’s talk about that party we promised details on. It’s going down on November 4th from 8 p.m. to midnight and promises to be a memorable occasion. There will be complimentary food provided by Hula Bay and Green Iguana, T-shirt giveaways, and tunes being spun by local DJ AR Smooth.
Cheers to 85 years, and many, many more.
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