Bar's replacement: a location for AA meetings

Hyde Park United Methodist Church's building will replace the old Magnolia Tavern and will serve many of the community's needs.

Published June 2, 2006

Thirsty revelers consumed more than a little booze over the years at the Magnolia Tavern and Sports Bar, a key Gasparilla parade route stop for more than half a century.

But a new building going up in its place ironically will be the site of an entirely different gathering: Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

That's just one of the uses Hyde Park United Methodist Church plans for the two-story activities and youth ministry center.

The old Magnolia Tavern was set to be demolished this week, said Rusty Carpenter, church operations director. He is hopeful the building will open in 10 to 12 months.

The church on Platt Street has learned to be patient. When it bought the Magnolia building four years ago - the bar closed immediately after - church officials planned to convert it into the church's activities center.

However, the one-story building would have required extensive renovation, and the church decided it needed more space anyway.

So now it plans a 9,000-square-foot building with youth activities on the upper level and adult activities on the lower level.

The center will provide a place for AARP driving classes and American Red Cross meetings and blood drives, Carpenter said. Metropolitan Ministries also will feed the homeless from the location on Sundays.

But the 107-year-old church's priority is providing a place for its young parishioners.

"One of the clear outcomes from a congregational survey was the youth needed a place of their own, somewhere we could consolidate their activities," Carpenter said.

The cost of the project, including furnishings, is estimated at $2-million, Carpenter said. Church officials have not determined a name for the center.

Hyde Park UMC, which has slightly more than 2,000 members, also recently bought three parcels off nearby DeLeon Street, Carpenter said.

The church paid $3.3-million for the properties, anticipating future expansion needs.

Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or 226-3431.