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Ode to the local lounge

By PATTY RYAN, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 2, 2002


SUNDAY, I went to church, hoping the priest would declare the nine-miner rescue a major miracle. He didn't. Absent firmer guidance, I fell prey to a bar song that floated through my head.

SUNDAY, I went to church, hoping the priest would declare the nine-miner rescue a major miracle. He didn't. Absent firmer guidance, I fell prey to a bar song that floated through my head.

In a cavern, in a canyon

Excavating for a mine

Dwelt a miner, forty-niner,

And his daughter

Clementine.

I resisted the inevitable ending. I recited the word "holy" a lot. I gave my fellow churchgoers the sign of peace.

* * *

RULE NO. 3 when applying for a liquor zoning:

Avoid mixing 25-cent beer promotions with Hot Rod Thursday promotions.

No. 2? Teen night is a definite no-no.

No. 1? Don't name your bar "Satan's Den."

Maybe that's where Potbellies erred. Its name sounded like trouble.

* * *

THIS is Tampa. We go to church on Sundays but lift our shirts for pirates. We, as in other people.

If Potbellies got a hard liquor license, the Republican National Convention would definitely not come. You know that, don't you?

It's okay, somehow, that The Sex Shop, with its moth-eaten underwear window displays, is right next to Pet Supermarket, where impressionable kittens are vaccinated. (Common ground: studded collars.)

* * *

BARS. Liquor. Evildoers.

Mons Venus is on the same street as my church.

Bucs season nears. Typically, it brings police officers who stop traffic outside Raymond James Stadium so that drunken pedestrians, car keys in hand, may cross Himes Avenue safely.

Our city is an odd marriage of innocence and abandonment.

You are lost and gone forever

Oh, my darling...

* * *

CLEMENTINE: How did she die? Was she trapped in a mine? Would modern drilling techniques have saved her? I rack my brain, trying to remember.

* * *

POTBELLIES, if you haven't heard, lost out on its request to serve liquor.

About 1,000 people signed a petition supporting it, including a minister.

Opponents argued it would put more drunken drivers on the roads of South Tampa and generally lead to a decline of Bayshore Beautiful, which in and of itself would keep the Republican National Convention away.

* * *

HAVING NEVER been a patron, I can't vouch for Potbellies. The owner, who vows to invite hordes of bikers to Bayshore Beautiful in retaliation, could probably use a charm school session.

But I once chatted with a judge about drunken-driving deaths.

He lamented the decline of neighborhood bars, reasoning that careful zoning had simply put drunks on highways farther from home.

* * *

ONE NIGHT recently, I saw mayoral hopeful Bob Buckhorn, in public appearance mode, at Four Green Fields with his infant daughter. That was before he voted against liquor for Potbellies.

I was reminded of a visit to Ireland. My brother, sister and I had witnessed the annual blessing of a town, Ennistymon, in County Clare. A priest and a flock of young girls in First Communion dresses led a procession through town.

When it disbanded, everyone retreated to the bar, including the children and grandparents.

* * *

ONE LITTLE GIRL stood, fresh-faced, against a backdrop of glass and liquor bottles, as we snapped a photo of purity.

The townspeople summoned an old man from down the street to lead the bar in song, a nod to the visiting Americans.

He had a haggard face, but a beautiful voice.

I offered to buy him a stout. The barkeeper, mother to one of the little girls, gave me a stern frown and shook her head "no."

They all knew something. No one would let him drink.

* * *

I WONDER about Potbellies.

Did "no" accomplish much?

Ruby lips above the water,

Blowing bubbles soft and fine,

But alas, I was no swimmer,

Neither was my Clementine.

-- Tampa's Kennedy Boulevard was once called Grand Central. Now Grand Central is a weekly City Times column. Writer Patty Ryan can be reached at 226-3382 or pryan@sptimes.com.

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