Saturday, December 16, 2017
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Iconic blues bar Dave's Aqua Lounge closes

After 48 years, Dave's Aqua Lounge, the smoky little blues lounge that proudly called itself a joint, is closed. Owner Dave Mamber Jr., who took over the namesake bar from his father, has sold the Gandy Boulevard location but the name is going with him.

Mamber didn't reveal who he sold the bar to but he said he expects it will reopen some time in 2013. Meanwhile, he's holding an "artifact sale" from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sunday so fans can take home a memory of their favorite dive until he has to hand over the keys on Monday.

When word spread that the lounge was closing, Mamber said local musicians begged him to have one last jam on his stage. He said this past weekend was packed with local musicians. "It was so very gratifying."

Grammy winner Derek Trucks has played there, back when he was a child prodigy wowing audiences with his slide guitar. And local artists from a variety of genres — from the Mojo Gurus to St. Petersburg rapper Pedro el Poeta (who opened for Cypress Hill in November) to Tidal Wave, the instrumental surf trio from Land O'Lakes, have taken the stage. Metalcore fans saw Fires of Gomorrah there. And the underground rockabilly Dex Romweber Duo wrote and produced two Western-flavored blues numbers with Jack White for a special vinyl release in 2009 on White's label, Third Man Records. Their release party was at Dave's Aqua Lounge.

They all played in front the bar's well-known backdrop of hundreds of gleaming silver CDs affixed to the wall. The place was often described as a movie set of a dive bar, the kind you would see on The Wire or Sons of Anarchy.

It opened in 1964, and in 1969 the current location at 10820 Gandy Blvd. in St. Petersburg was opened next to the original.

"I'm very proud when people call it a 'joint,' " said Mamber, 62, who literally grew up in the bar. It was the ultimate dive for boaters, fishermen and working-class fans of live music and strong drinks. He booked live music six nights a week, including a blues jam every Wednesday.

Though the lounge is closed, Mamber's influence will live on in the local bar scene. He was instrumental in 2010 in convincing the St. Petersburg City Council to keep the drinks flowing a little longer by extending closing time in city bars from 2 to 3 a.m. to better compete with Tampa's night scene.

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