BARFLY ON THE WALL

At Clearwater's Freaki Tiki, drink deals abound

Now that the commotion is over and it's officially 2011, many of us find ourselves having to return to work. Not without one more night of drink and merriment, I say, aware of the irony — my work, fortunately, is comprised largely of fun and games.

After spending a few days in Key West, I figured it might be a good idea to wind down with a trip to a tropical-themed bar in Clearwater, the Freaki Tiki.

I'd only been there once, on the way back from a casino cruise in Port Richey, hoping to grab a quiet drink or two before heading home. Not knowing what to expect, I walked through the outdoor patio area and into what appeared to be less of a tiki bar and more of a nightclub, with a large dance floor populated by a throng of enthusiastic patrons and a DJ fueling the party with tunes straight from the Ybor City playbook, complete with a thumping, club-worthy sound system. We didn't stay long, opting instead for something a bit more low-key.

After doing some light research before my most recent outing, I learned that the Freaki Tiki is indeed quite the hotspot on that otherwise sleepy stretch of U.S. 19.

Noted as a popular hangout for hospitality industry folk, the Freaki Tiki is alive with rotating drink specials, promotions and live entertainment seven nights a week. As popular as the place is with those in the industry, it seems equally popular to the college crowd, with student discounts available on certain nights.

The bar itself is nothing too out of the ordinary: a small outdoor patio and bar provides seating in warmer weather; inside is a large bar, elevated DJ booth, dance floor and table seating in a partitioned area. There is a large gaming area with two pool tables, five electronic dart boards and the ever-popular punching machine. The walls, which are decorated with various tropical and beach-themed murals, sport several whimsical, hand-painted signs ("It's 5 o'clock somewhere," "No drunk texting").

Where the Freaki Tiki really stands out is in its promotions.

There's a different special each night of the week, and all of them offer surprising value.

For example, three nights out of the week, patrons can get drinks for $1. Thursday is a big night, with $5 buckets of domestic beers, and Fridays offer a sink-or-swim deal for $10. Mondays seem to lead the pack in absurdly cheap drinks, with $1 wells and $2 calls, as well as 25-cent drafts when you purchase a $2 Freaki Tiki mug.

It's Bud Select, but, hey, four of them will run you only $3 total.

While it may not be your average tiki bar, the Freaki Tiki is undoubtedly is one of the hotter late-night spots for cheap drinks and dancing in north Clearwater.

The bar selection is thorough enough, the staff is friendly and the specials ensure that you aren't likely to leave broke.

I could go for a more varied beer selection, but low prices and easy drinking are the name of the game here.

The management obviously has put a lot of effort into keeping things interesting, and it shows — bargain-basement prices, constant live entertainment from bands and DJs, and an overall upbeat vibe make it a surprisingly capable candidate for late-night fun in a Clearwater strip mall. If you find yourself in that part of town, stop by and check out the nightly specials; you might be surprised.

— jg@saintbeat.com

Freaki Tiki

28778 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater; (727) 329-6160; freakitikibar.com.

The vibe: A beach-themed party destination popular with the college and hospitality crowds.

Booze: Beer, wine, liquor. Most drinks are $3.50-$7.50, but nightly specials include drinks for as low as $1, as well as several free drink deals and sink-or-swim specials.

Food: Bar fare (think deep-fried), $5.99-$11.99.

Specialty: A sign on the wall encouraged me to try the "F-Bomb," a shot containing 5 different flavored vodkas and Red Bull, but it wasn't that kind of night. Your best bet is to find out what the nightly drink special is and start from there. When I stopped by, wells were $1 — get something simple and tropical and say you're welcome to your wallet.

Hours: Open 3:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily.

At Clearwater's Freaki Tiki, drink deals abound 01/06/11 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:15pm]

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