Tampa Bay institutions that are long gone, but desperately need a comeback

In this world, things come and go, no matter how much we want them to stay.

Tampa Bay has seen its fair share of legendary restaurants, music venues, bowling alleys, radio stations, and more die out over the ages. Whether it's been a result of rising property value, the pandemic, or even police raids, though the doors may have closed, these places will live on in our minds and hearts forever.

Here are a few iconic local institutions from Tampa Bay's past that need a triumphant comeback.

Beware of nostalgia.
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Fun-Lan Drive-in Theater
Drive-in movie theaters are already rare in Tampa Bay, so when Fun-Lan’s 650-car theater closed down last year during the pandemic after over 70 years of service, the city took a major loss. The property has been purchased and the owners claim to construct an affordable housing complex.
Photo via Justin Garcia

Fun-Lan Drive-in Theater

Drive-in movie theaters are already rare in Tampa Bay, so when Fun-Lan’s 650-car theater closed down last year during the pandemic after over 70 years of service, the city took a major loss. The property has been purchased and the owners claim to construct an affordable housing complex.
Photo via Justin Garcia
Big Top Flea Market
Let’s just say the pandemic was not kind to flea markets. Big Top was the go-to spot for those looking to spend a lazy weekend day searching for knick knacks and bartering deals on sports cards. After 26 years of selling treasures to Tampa locals, the market was shut down in 2020. And you guessed it, townhouses are set to pop up on the property. 
Photo via Big Top Flea Market/Facebook

Big Top Flea Market

Let’s just say the pandemic was not kind to flea markets. Big Top was the go-to spot for those looking to spend a lazy weekend day searching for knick knacks and bartering deals on sports cards. After 26 years of selling treasures to Tampa locals, the market was shut down in 2020. And you guessed it, townhouses are set to pop up on the property.
Photo via Big Top Flea Market/Facebook
The Colonnade Restaurant
Before closing in 2016 and having its insides auctioned off to the public, the five-generation family-owned seafood restaurant served its customers for 80 long years—opening in 1935 before the start of World War II—and slowly became a piece of Tampa Bay history. The Colonnade was a popular spot amongst Tampa’s teenagers and served a variety of fresh fish and shellfish. The property is now home to The Virage, a condominium complex—and those teenagers kept going until the day the restaurant closed.
Photo via Collonade Restaurant

The Colonnade Restaurant

Before closing in 2016 and having its insides auctioned off to the public, the five-generation family-owned seafood restaurant served its customers for 80 long years—opening in 1935 before the start of World War II—and slowly became a piece of Tampa Bay history. The Colonnade was a popular spot amongst Tampa’s teenagers and served a variety of fresh fish and shellfish. The property is now home to The Virage, a condominium complex—and those teenagers kept going until the day the restaurant closed.
Photo via Collonade Restaurant
Kapok Tree Inn
Clearwater’s Kapok Tree Inn was widely known as one of Florida’s most extravagant restaurants as a result of its Renaissance-inspired architecture, garden, waterfalls, chandeliers and themed dining rooms. Despite generating $10 million in sales in 1988, the inn closed in 1991, but the property still remains as an event venue and includes a Sam Ash Music Store.
Photo via Florida State Archives

Kapok Tree Inn

Clearwater’s Kapok Tree Inn was widely known as one of Florida’s most extravagant restaurants as a result of its Renaissance-inspired architecture, garden, waterfalls, chandeliers and themed dining rooms. Despite generating $10 million in sales in 1988, the inn closed in 1991, but the property still remains as an event venue and includes a Sam Ash Music Store.
Photo via Florida State Archives
Wilson’s Sports Lounge
After 50 years of cheap drinks, sticky floors and local comradery, Wilson’s had its last call in June earlier this year. The teal-colored, St. Pete dive bar—which appeared in the 2012 hit movie, “Magic Mike”—was a favorite spot for buddies looking to grab a cold one, watch the game and swap stories. People loved Wilson’s because its community—regulars welcomed newcomers, the bartenders were entertaining and everyone could be themselves.
Photo via SK West

Wilson’s Sports Lounge

After 50 years of cheap drinks, sticky floors and local comradery, Wilson’s had its last call in June earlier this year. The teal-colored, St. Pete dive bar—which appeared in the 2012 hit movie, “Magic Mike”—was a favorite spot for buddies looking to grab a cold one, watch the game and swap stories. People loved Wilson’s because its community—regulars welcomed newcomers, the bartenders were entertaining and everyone could be themselves.
Photo via SK West

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At a time when local-based reporting is critical, support from our readers is essential to our future.