One of the first things you'll notice at the new V is that it looks very much like the old Venue.
The complex is split up into multiple sections, each a mini destination of its own, spread across two levels and a few outdoor patios.
Inside, the focal point is the Main Stage Martini Bar in the center, with a long marble bar top backed by rows of glowing bottles and a large stage which, on this particular night, was occupied by DJ Fresh playing to the dance floor crowd immediately in front of the wide, semicircular bar.
Stage left is Crave Sushi Bar and the adjacent Speak-easy Sports Lounge, a small lounge with dark wood, huge flatscreens and a draft beer selection featuring local brews from Cigar City, Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Cold Storage and even Pensacola Bay Brewery. Speak-easy also has some spirits, like Johnnie Walker Blue and Grand Marnier 150, that are so top-shelf that they actually have to be accessed by ladder.
There's also the outdoor Tropical Patio Bar, featuring live acoustic acts; VIN Tapas & Wine Bar; Club Five with a balcony overlooking the restaurants and bars below; a Sky Bar; VIP Bar; and an outdoor Cabana Bar.
I spent most of my time downstairs at VIN, as it was a great vantage point and also one of the only bars where the bartender would acknowledge the existence of a new cocktail menu, featuring some interesting concoctions beyond the admittedly impressive $1 Svedka special. See, I arrived on a Monday, which is the V's service industry night, a continuation of the Venue's notoriously popular weekly event. That night featured a wealth of drink specials and massive crowds. The crowds this week were not quite at Venue levels, but all the pieces seem to be in place.
With dirt-cheap specials, it's not surprising that cocktail menus were scarce, but those options are worth trying. I enjoyed the V Berry Mojito, which involved Bacardi Dragon, Pama Pomegranate liqueur, Monin Blackberry syrup (and according to the menu, precisely six mint leaves), as well as the Nutti Espresso, a mix of Van Gogh Espresso vodka, vanilla vodka and Frangelico. The Pear-adise was also good, with a potent but easy-drinking blend of Grey Goose Pear vodka, Cointreau, Chambord and orange juice.
If the multiple bars weren't enough, there were also break dancers and a bizarre performance art duo roaming the club: a man in a white body suit and stilts covered in blinking LEDs who was joined by a female partner wearing little more than a bikini bottom, carnival mask and two flowers (use your imagination).
Much of the V's current business is based on the model left by its predecessor, which is not a bad move considering how fickle crowds can be. Mondays are the big night here, with Fridays coming in a close second, just like in the Venue days.
Times correspondent Justin Grant can be reached at [email protected]