Ybor City music venue Crowbar gets five-year lease extension

‘Our 20-year anniversary is in 2026, and I really want to get there.’

click to enlarge DAVE DECKER
Dave Decker

Crowbar, the scruffy live-music venue in Ybor City—a dying breed in Tampa’s Latin quarter—will be around until at least 2026 if owner Tom DeGeorge has anything to say about it. He signed a new five-year lease with his landlord, Ron Rampolla, in late September.

Crowbar, which until COVID had primarily presented touring rock acts, nosedived during the pandemic. Nothing unusual there. But DeGeorge, who’s an indefatigable crusader for independent live-music venues in Tampa Bay and nationally, was determined that his joint would not become a casualty. Surveying the landscape, he saw property values skyrocketing, and figured that owners of smaller buildings might be tempted to sell to big developers looking to put in large-footprint mixed-use projects. The thought of that happening in Ybor City horrifies him.

“I contacted Ron early on in the pandemic and told him, ‘I will not fall behind on the rent, but I really need you to extend my lease,’” DeGeorge said in a phone interview. “I needed that security. It’s very important.”

He characterized Rampolla as “a fair landlord, but he’s a better friend. He lives in Ybor. He supports what I’m doing. I’m very thankful we extended. Our 20-year anniversary is in 2026, and I really want to get there.”

What if Rampolla chooses to sell the building? “[The lease] doesn’t stop him from selling, but it protects me,” DeGeorge explained. “I have a secure lease until July 2026. A new owner would have to wait out my contract, or come to me and say, ‘What’s it gonna take to get you out of here?’ I don’t have any desire to be bought out, but I need to know someone will have to compensate me so I wouldn’t be out in the street. I want to be able to focus on running the best live-music venue I can, and not be looking over my shoulder all the time.”

DeGeorge said that Rampolla assured him repeatedly that he has no plans to sell.

Crowbar was nothing like its old self from March 2020 until mid-September. For a while, DeGeorge presented smaller, seated (and distanced) shows in the main room and in the adjacent Beer Garden. Programming has really picked up of late. On Sept. 17, Crowbar hosted its first national act, Transviolet, since the beginning of the pandemic. Since then, eight more touring acts have played the club’s stage, and DeGeorge said he has another 30 on the calendar for the remainder of the year.

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