Tom DeGeorge has been entrenched in the Ybor City nightlife scene since 2001, when he was brought to town to run The Masquerade (now The Ritz Ybor) and not only managed it but lived above it until it closed in 2006. By then he’d fallen in love with the historic Tampa district, and later that fall, opened a place of his own: Crowbar. With help from a few (mostly silent) business partners, he’s spent the past eight years shaping it into the live music venue and nightlife institution that it is today. DeGeorge is a no-nonsense dude who doesn’t stray far from T-shirts and baseball caps, and cuts an intimidating figure with his brawny build, bushy beard and penetrating stare. But beneath his tough exterior is a savvy businessman with a big heart who’s relentlessly dedicated to the community in which he lives and works. Not only does he sit on the boards of the Ybor City Development Corporation and the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, he is president of the Ybor Merchants Association.
“I’m an Ybor guy. I cut my teeth here.”
Favorite venue that’s not Crowbar: NEW WORLD BREWERY. “When I go to a show, it’s very hard for me to enjoy myself because I’m like a fly on the wall watching everything — that bartender is on her phone when she should be helping a customer, the sound in here sounds like shit, why isn’t anyone paying attention to what this band wants, that security guard isn’t paying attention and there’s a fight starting over there… [But] when I go to New World, I can actually sit back and enjoy myself. I think a lot of that has to do with the management and the staff. If you have a place that takes pride in what they do and people are on point and they’re paying attention and they’re friendly — I just feel really comfortable when I go there. I don’t feel like I’m at a bar, I feel like I’m at a friend’s house. You go in there, you’re always gonna see someone you know. I really enjoy that place.”
Favorite place to hang: YBOR CITY DIVE BARS. “If I’m not at work and not at home, you’re gonna see me at a dive bar or watering hole. That could be New World, Reservoir Bar, The Dirty Shame, Boneyard — those are my places, where I like to go and relax, chill, have a couple drinks.”
Favorite dive bar: RESERVOIR BAR. “My business partner [Devin Norton] owns it; that’s where I met him and got to know him.”
Favorite place to get a pie: CRISTINO’S COAL OVEN PIZZA. “For a whole pie, it has to be Cristino’s. Their gourmet pizza is incredible; they also have really good gelato. If I’m doing it by the slice, I’d say NEW YORK NEW YORK.”
Favorite place to nurse a hangover: SUNDAY’S DELICATESSEN. “If you’re just done, you can get their breakfast sandwich, the Hang Over Hero; it’s got bacon, sausage, egg and all kinds of stuff on it. Or you can buy one of their subs and that’ll last you all day.”
Favorite local breweries: CIGAR CITY and COPPERTAIL. “Cigar City is big. I carry Coppertail beers but I can’t keep them in stock, they sell so fast; the Night Swim porter is a favorite.”
Staple eats spot: POLLO GARDEN. “It’s where the old Mema’s used to be. The food’s really good. It’s all Peruvian flavors. They have standard menu items but they’ll also make a random special and have it out for that week. They make really good burritos, but they also make this thing, it’s like a fried mashed potato and inside of it is ground beef and egg [Papa Rellena]. My god, it’s delicious.”
Favorite place to take the wife on a date: ELLA’S AMERICANA FOLK ART CAFÉ. “She usually picks out appetizers, I really like the gourmet pizzas and the meatloaf. It has a great atmosphere and a great staff, there’s a lot of old Ybor people that work there. Everybody’s so nice. If you have good staff, they make you feel comfortable, they make you feel like they want to be there — I will always go to a place like that. It makes me really happy.”
Favorite Tampa Bay area events: TROPICAL HEATWAVE and GASPARILLA MUSIC FESTIVAL.
Best place to escape without leaving town: TREASURE ISLAND/SUNSET BEACH. That’s where my wife and I go every year for our anniversary; we rent a little beach house out there. It’s a half-hour drive and you’re in a completely different world. It’s the best; I love it. We like to go to the place across from Caddy’s, KA’TIKI? It’s cool. Usually, we’ll go in the afternoon and everyone else is 60 and older. I would love to retire to that area and live like those people — go to the little beach bar every single day and just chill…
Insider tip for first-time visitors: YBOR CITY BY DAY. It’s underrated. When tourists come into town, the first thing they think about is the nightlife. They don’t come out during the day. Ybor has been through many different changes, and the times that it has been most successful are when everybody’s not doing the same thing. Right now we’re on a very high note — you come out during the day, and there’s so many different food options out here, and shopping and things to do. It’s a hidden secret that a lot of people still don’t know about yet.
Local band that never disappoints? NERVOUS TURKEY. I always tell people, there’s a difference between being a singer and being a frontman. Ernie, he’s a good singer, but he’s a great frontman. When you go to a Nervous Turkey show, you know you’re gonna get a show. He’s incredible.