Welcome to the Best of The Bay 2020

It's Creative Loafing's 30th annual issue celebrating the best Tampa Bay has to offer.

You don’t need me to tell you how weird this is, and I’m certainly not going to start this conversation off by writing, “I hope you’re as well as you can be in these trying times.” Anyone reading this—Creative Loafing Tampa Bay’s 30th annual Best of the Bay issue—knows that 2020 has been like no other year in our lifetimes. And anyone with half a brain knows that there’s hurt all around. From the balance sheets of our favorite businesses, to the wellbeing of our next door neighbors, to the minds of elected officials at city hall and even on the faces of our own children, uncertainty often feels like the order of the day. That’s why it was so important that we get this issue in front of you this week.


For 30 years, CL’s Best of the Bay has tried to capture the energy put forth by the community and somehow celebrate it on newsprint. At a time when we walk out of our doors with the goal of not contracting a frightening virus, taking a second to recognize the good energy in our lives seems like an exercise worth taking—a required exercise and something to combat the cynicism, if you ask me.

Just like in years past, Best of the Bay 2020 is loaded with Readers’ Picks we’ll all be arguing about for the next week (321 of ‘em, to be exact). This issue is also home to 172 Critics’ Picks where our staff and contributors from years past chimed in to big up so many of the things that made them feel a sense of community pride over the last year (plus a few which made us wretch). And tucked away at the end of it all this year are a handful of short profiles submitted by CL writers who wanted to acknowledge people or institutions they believe have left a positive impact on Tampa Bay over the last three decades.

I think I can speak for our entire staff in saying that getting to fix our gaze around what made readers—and our colleagues—happy over the last 12 months was a welcome respite from the headlines. In these “unprecedented” times, the precedent and practice of compiling Best of the Bay was a lifesaver for our souls.

But as you flip through the more than 40 pages of Best of the Bay content, and see the names of all the people who’ve done good and lifted up their community, I’d ask you to also think about every person and every business whose name didn’t make it onto these pages. I’m talking about the mom-and-pop that shut down with no fanfare. I’m talking about the laid off mom and pop who’re wondering how they’ll feed their kids. I’m talking about the nameless protester coming face-to-face with danger all because they dare to loudly say “Black Lives Matter” in a way that makes those around them uncomfortable.

Congratulations certainly are in order for all those named here in our 30th annual Best of the Bay. Your contributions to the community are immeasurable in so many ways, and you’ve lifted us up, for sure. But this is one of those years—and this notion shouldn’t be weird at all—where the best of us have to look even further past our own bubbles, and do more to lift up the rest of us along the way.

Keep taking care of each other Tampa Bay, we’ll see you again this time next year. —Ray Roa

Winners can visit our CL BOTB keepsake store.

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