The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

For a good part of my immediate post-college life, Ybor City was the only real option for partying in Tampa Bay. I was lucky enough to be here when the area was emerging from a decades-long decline to become the closest thing to party district we had. I cannot tell you what a pleasure it was to be able to park your car for the night and be able to stroll from club to club for several hours.

Times change, sorta. Ybor is struggling to redefine itself in the face of competing Bay area entertainment zones and an overload of young'uns. Of course, even some of the youngsters are ambivalent toward spending time on Seventh Avenue.

As I approach my mid-thirties, I have to admit I'm feeling more than a little awkward these days, trudging the streets side-by-side with 18-year-old gangta-wannabes, fratboys and hoochie-mammas. I typically just duck into a club for the night anyway these days, but with most of the clubs there letting in 18-year-olds and up, it's hard to avoid the kiddies. Not that I always want to, but there is a comfort level in being able to mingle with people who (you assume) have reached some level of mature consciousness. Yes, even in a bar.

Part of my deal is also sheer over-familiarity. Ten years of seeing pretty much the same joints is probably enough. There are other places to hit around town, but not that many; Ybor is still a prime option most weekends.

Of course, I'm not kidding myself as to the motives here. The merchants on Seventh Avenue don't care as much about fostering an adult environment as they do about trying to lure the demographics with the most disposable income. Nothing wrong with that.

I'm surprised these articles didn't tap the owner of Harpo's Nightclub to spout off. In the past, he was always willing to speak up about how much he hated running his club in Ybor, and how he couldn't make any money, and lots of other whining. Meanwhile, his club is packed every weekend, despite the rather lame scene. Maybe he's no longer the guy in charge there; or he figured people have long since tuned him out.