The Hub, downtown Tampa’s legendary ‘dive bar’, now has a sidewalk café, just like swanky establishments one might find while strolling the Champs-Élysées in Paris.
“Hmmm. Kinda? I guess?”, said Ferrell ‘Skooter’ Melton, one of the popular watering hole’s co-owners. “I mean, this isn’t Paris and it’s not our café but I hear French people smoke a lot of cigarettes and that’ll be the case with people who hang out there, since our customers can no longer smoke inside and have to step out to light up.”
A temporary fixture, known as a “parklet” consisting of a raised platform with barricades has been placed next to the sidewalk on the south side of Polk Street outside The Hub behind Tampa Theatre. It’s one of several that have popped up downtown as part of the city’s “Lift Up Local” program, an initiative designed to increase serving capacity for restaurants impacted by restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ah yes! This aspect of the ‘Lift Up Local’ program re-expands the use of public and private sidewalks and parking areas during the extended limited capacity orders to give restaurants and retail establishments a greater ability to use outdoor spaces for regular operations”, said unofficial city spokesperson Jason Accardi. “The fact that it also eats up even more of what is already a limited inventory of metered street parking spaces is a coincidence. Or a nice little bonus if you happen to own 717 Parking, which I do.”
“I feel like I need to stress that it’s not The Hub’s café”, said Melton. “It’s for SuperNatural Food & Wine, that little storefront around the corner that used to be the home of Duckweed Urban Market. It’s just really close to our front door. The Hub doesn’t even serve food. Sometimes there’s a hot dog cart on weekend evenings, but that’s it. We still have a great jukebox, world-famous restrooms and of course, as always, the strongest drinks in town. As far as any al fresco dining is concerned, our entire contribution to this venture is a high concentration of heater-burning patrons who are no longer allowed to smoke inside lurking around nearby.”
“So… Bon Appétit I suppose?”