The Cindy

Veronica Danko, owner of the Seminole Heights Independent, expands to Clearwater.

click to enlarge VIEW FROM A BAR: The new Clearwater Independent is open for business. - JAMES OSTRAND
VIEW FROM A BAR: The new Clearwater Independent is open for business.

After her bittersweet parting from the original Independent in St. Pete (and from her former husband and co-owner), Veronica Danko is enjoying a Pinellas reunion of sorts at her newly opened Clearwater Independent Bar.

“We call the Seminole Heights bar the Shindy,” Danko said. “We decided to call this the Cindy, which was better than the Clindy,” she added with a hearty laugh.

Everything happened really quickly for Danko after the owner of the Clearwater Brew Garden decided he wanted out of the business. Danko leased the space (which is located across the street from Ruth Eckerd Hall), and after three weeks of furious renovation, she and her crew (including General Manager Dan Schmidt, who has worked with Danko since the first Indy opened in St. Petersburg in 2005) were celebrating the opening of the “Cindy” with friends and longtime regulars.

Unlike the typical, dimly lit bar, with its unmistakable smell of sweat, spilled beer, and moldy cigarette butts, the ambience at Clearwater Independent Bar is clear and crisp. Hell, it’s downright swanky, with a bar made of thick, beautiful beams of cedar.

“We have an independent branding aesthetic,” Danko said. “Each building is different, but we want it to feel like an Independent. There’s a common theme.”

She patterned the Clearwater design on the Seminole Heights Location.

“When we bought this building, we were able to put our mark on the décor more than in St. Pete. …We wanted to brand ourselves with comfortable clean lines. It doesn’t look like a bar. It looks like a sauna.”

Kyle Habershon of Keleiwood did all the woodwork, including the cedar tap handles. Habershon, like Schmidt, has worked with Danko on both previous Independent locations.

“With the tap system we inherited in the building, they were really close together,” Danko said. So Habershon designed slender tap handles, each one with a slightly different hue or identifying mark. There are 32 taps in all, more than both previous locations combined.

“We had 12 in St. Pete and 14 in Tampa,” Danko said. “It’s exciting because we can dedicate several lines to local beer.”

She hopes that means Cigar City, 7Venth Sun, Rapp and Saint Somewhere drafts on a regular basis.

“We will really be able to represent a lot of styles of beer here,” Danko said. “We will have more wine, too, since we have more space in the bar.”

You can’t smoke inside, but the covered patio (complete with giant gusting fans) is a great spot to puff those American Spirits. There will be food, but she says the menu will be pared down compared to the Seminole Heights bar since the preparation area is smaller. Like the Seminole Heights location, Clearwater plans on having jazz and bluegrass.

“I want it to be just like the other Indys, a neighborhood pub, where people can feel comfortable and become part of our family. Our customers tend to do that.”

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