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Party time: The best nights at 50 of Tampa Bay's best bars

For tbt*'s fifth annual Ultimate Bar Guide, we decided we didn't just want to tell you where to go for a drink. We also wanted to tell you when to go.

For example, you may know Tuesdays are legendary at Tampa's Hyde Park Cafe — but does anyone know why? How did the region's hottest weekly blues jam end up on Monday at the Green Iguana in South Tampa? Why is there a line around the block for Pulp the Party each Wednesday at Czar in Ybor City?

From Mondays at the Castle to Sundays at Shephard's Beach Resort, we've picked out the best weekly parties at some of Tampa Bay's hottest bars. We've also rounded up some of Tampa Bay's top ladies nights, music nights, Latin nights and hospitality nights.

In all, we're spotlighting more than 50 of our favorite bars and clubs, as well as the best nights to visit them. Every night of the week is represented, so no matter when you hit the town, you're guaranteed to find a kickass party.

Let's start things off at the beginning of the week, with ...

MONDAY

Monday Blues Jam at the Green Iguana

Why it's hot: Here's a reason to get out on a Monday and experience something you won't find elsewhere. The Green Iguana on West Shore Boulevard, the first in the local chain, invites rhythm and blues musicians to jam on stage. About two dozen musicians perform throughout the night, belting out solos and jamming with Dean Germain, who leads on his 1959 B3 Hammond organ, an attraction in itself. You never know who's going to show up, and that's part of the allure. Rest assured, the musical result is better than you'd anticipate.

The back story: Germain, who goes by B3 Dean, has hosted Monday blues nights every week since the Green Iguana opened along West Shore 20 years ago. He wanted a place where professional and hobbyist musicians could come together and play. He said phooey to the notion that the top bar nights have to be Fridays and Saturdays because, after all, not everyone has weekends off.

Insider tip: You might want to take a nap before heading out because the jamming doesn't get going until about 10:30 p.m. and goes until about 2:30 a.m.

What else: Wash away the blues with 2-for-1 Coronas and well drinks. Mondays also have $5 burgers.

Where and when: 10 p.m. to close. 4029 S West Shore Blvd., Tampa; (813) 837-1234; greeniguana.com. — Susan Thurston

'80s Night at the Castle

Why it's hot: DJ/VJ Rob Pittman has been at the helm of this popular '80s night since before '80s music was retro chic. Every Monday night, crowds of longtime regulars and new faces head to the Castle for his selections, which have grown to include music from throughout the '90s and into the last decade, as well as a great mix of tunes that venture well past the typical '80s night fare. Four large screens surround the upstairs dance floor, where dancers on platforms gyrate to the synthpop and pop anthems of yesteryear, while others lounge around the massive bar or hang out in the Red Room Bar, an adjoining refuge from the main ballroom. Downstairs is a more laid-back affair, with DJ Sean playing the darker side of the night's mixes in the courtyard attached to the downstairs Saloon.

The back story: DJ Rob has been running this night in Tampa since 1990 (and at the Castle since 1997), making it one of the longest-running weekly events in the area. It was the first weekly event in the Bay area to focus exclusively on music videos — a format that dominates today's club scene.

Insider tip: There's a notepad in the hallway to the left of the DJ booth where you can jot down requests, but take a moment to read through the often bizarre and amusing notes that people leave on it in various states of inebriation.

What else? DJ/VJ Mike Roehr, who warms up the night before DJ Rob gets down to business, runs his own very popular night at the Castle on Thursdays called Pop 'N Wave, playing indie and hip dance music. The cover is $6 for 18 and up, and $4 for 21 and up.

When and where: 10:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. Mondays at the Castle, 2004 N 16th St., Tampa; (813) 247-7547; castleybor.com. — Justin Grant

S.I.N. at The Venue

Why it's hot: You could be forgiven for mistaking Monday at The Venue for a Friday in Ybor. On Mondays, The Venue becomes Tampa Bay's preeminent party, thanks to the hottest hospitality night in town: S.I.N., short for Service Industry Night. The drink specials ($2 you-call-its, $150 SKYY bottles) are good enough, but the real prize is a $500 tab awarded to the business with the most employees present. Dozens of companies, from chains like Carrabba's to clubs like AJA Channelside and Jackson's Bistro — compete weekly for the prize.

The back story: Monday used to be a dark night for The Venue, which opened in 2008. But when Bricktown 54 closed in 2008, Venue chef and partner Robert Uzzillia saw an opportunity. "They used to have a Monday hospitality night, and they used to (draw) 2,000 people," he said. "When they went out of business, we knew those people had to go somewhere, so we decided to take the night." The club brought in DJs from 93.3-FLZ (Ratboy and Stay Puff, Kidd Leow) to help build buzz each week. Now upward of 1,400 partiers show up.

Insider tip: Dress well — you never know who you're going to see. After Matt Garza threw his no-hitter July 26 — a Monday — Uzzillia said a group of teammates brought Garza to The Venue to celebrate. The club presented him with a bottle of champagne.

What else? In Tampa, try the new Social Club Mondays at The Kennedy (2408 W Kennedy Blvd.; thekennedysoho.com), hosted by DJ Christion and Jordan from Wild 94.1. Hospitality specials include $5 Hennessy and $6 Patron.

When and where: 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Mondays. The Venue, 2675 Ulmerton Road, Clearwater; (727) 571-2222, thevenueclub.com. — Jay Cridlin

TUESDAY

Tuesdays at Hyde Park Cafe

Why it's hot: In 2009, tbt* named Hyde Park Cafe Tampa Bay's Ultimate Drinking Destination, largely because of the club's longstanding Tuesday night parties, which pretty much exemplify everything you'd want in a top-notch nightclub on what's normally an off night for clubs. Most of South Tampa has a story to tell about partying there on a Tuesday and paying the consequences Wednesday.

The back story: Tommy Ortiz opened it in 1995, when Platt Street was considered the 'hood and S Howard Avenue wasn't a hotspot. Tuesdays put the cafe on the map and fueled its reputation as the place to go for great music, pretty people and high-energy clubbing.

Insider tip: The party doesn't get going until late. (Doesn't anyone have to work early the next day?) So don't be surprised to see a line out the door at 1 a.m. Arrive before 11 p.m., and chances are you won't have to wait.

What else: Michael Jordan and Derek Jeter have visited on a Tuesday. And remember American Idol Jessica Sierra? Her famous glass-throwing incident, which happened on a weekend night, thrust the club into national spotlight.

Where and when: 1801 W Platt St., Tampa; (813) 254-2233; thehydeparkcafe.com. $10 cover for guys. — Susan Thurston

WEDNESDAY

Wednesdays in The 'Burg

It started with Filth, a weekly electro/punk/old-school party on Wednesday nights at The Emerald. Today, with St. Pete's nightlife scene undergoing a revival in the past year, Filth has spawned a handful of eclectic events on the same night each week. What's there to do on a Wednesday in downtown St. Pete? Here are some highlights. — Jay Cridlin

Fubar

Why it's hot: Filth moved from the Emerald and took up residence here several months ago. Organized by DJ Justin "JG" Grant (who, full disclosure, is a tbt* correspondent and contributor to this year's Ultimate Bar Guide), Filth offers a mix of old-school punk, classic rock and modern dance and hip-hop. The cover is $1; PBR tallboys are two for $3; Strongbow is two for $5 and Yuengling pints are $2.

The back story: When the Uptown Bar closed in 2009, St. Pete scenesters doubted Fubar would be able to take its place. But the bar has become a popular hangout for punks and hipsters following State Theatre concerts, thanks in no small part to a huge craft beer selection.

Insider tip? DJs Grant and Nate take requests on Filth's Twitter feed (@filthstpete), but reserve the right not to play anything they don't like. But Grant says they will agree to play "something that's similar to it that's good."

What else? Like it or not, these days all the Cool Kids are into dubstep, a funky, jittery blend of house, reggae and breaks. Get into the grimy groove at the popular Turbo Tuesdays at Fubar, and get an education in the musical movement of the moment.

When and where: 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. 658 Central Ave., St. Petersburg; myspace.com/fubardowntown, twitter.com/filthstpete.

Durty Nelly's

Why it's hot: They've got $2 pitchers. Need we say more? Durty Nelly's is a no-frills college party bar, with cheap drinks almost every day of the week. On Wednesdays, DJs spin hip-hop and top 40. It's hot and packed like an Ybor nightclub, but patrons still manage to shoot pool just steps from the dance floor.

Insider tip? One of the cleverest specials in town is Durty Nelly's "Ink and Drink" Thursdays. In addition to 25-cent drafts and $1 wells, anyone with a tattoo gets a discount.

What else? If it's cheap drinks you're after, check out Hump Day Happy Hour, which runs from 11 a.m. to midnight Wednesdays at Crowley's Downtown (269 Central Ave., (727) 821-1111) a block and a half away. You'll get 2?for-1 domestic drafts and house wines.

When and where: 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. 149 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg; myspace.com/durtynellysstpete.

Vintage Ultra Lounge

Why it's hot: Unlike other bars in the 'Burg, this one strives for a sleek, Euro-style vibe for a party dubbed Glass on Wednesday nights. Arty, fashionable and gay-friendly, Glass has brought in drag performers, go-go dancers, rock/DJ hybrids and much more to liven things up. There are $3 Long Island Iced Teas and $2 mystery shots, plus 2-for-1 cocktails from 9 to 11 p.m. It's hit or miss, crowd-wise, but when it's clicking, it's a unique experience. "It is supposed to be very different from anything in St. Pete," said organizer and promoter Brianna Kole.

Insider tip? Sign your name to the guestlist at theglassparty.com and get in cheap all night. And watch out for a huge party Sept. 8, when Glass celebrates its one-year anniversary. Kole said they're planning to have graffiti artists, a photo booth and possibly a fashion show.

What else? St. Pete's other "ultra lounge," Push (128 Third St. S), doesn't have a Wednesday night party. But it does offer a weekly rooftop yoga class from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. For details, see stpeteyoga.com.

When and where: 9 p.m. to 3 a.m., 16 Second St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 898-2222, theglassparty.com.

The Local 662

Why it's hot: No bar better exemplifies the resurgence of Central Avenue's 600 block than The Local 662, which opened in the old Garage Bar space this summer. The bar serves up local music (and some national acts) on weekends, but on Wednesdays, it's all about St. Pete Soul — delightful old-school funk, boogie and R&B performed by DJs Funk Jesus, Gregg Schmidt and Sugar Bear. From Earth, Wind and Fire to Rick James to Morris Day to Erykah Badu, the grooves are irresistible and different from most anything you'll hear in any other club. "If you're into hip-hop, you'll like tonight, because you're going to recognize stuff that people have sampled," Funk Jesus said. "A lot of these songs are ingrained in your psyche. The songs are familiar to you, even if you don't know the artist."

Insider tip? If you see a dude in a werewolf mask spinning vinyl onstage, fear not — that's just Funk Jesus, better known as the Tampa rapper Bryan "BC" Clardy. He tends to play deep funk (Parliament Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins) and neo-soul, whereas Schmidt does a lot of old Motown, and Sugar Bear plays beat-driven music that breakdancers might dig.

What else? You can sample St. Pete Soul on the Hillsborough side of the Bay. For the past four years, Funk Jesus and Schmidt have hosted Soul Night on the last Monday of each month at Orpheum, 1902 Republica de Cuba Ave., Tampa.

When and where: Starts at 10 p.m. at 662 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. No cover. facebook.com/thelocal662.

Sake Bomb

Why it's hot: The Sake Bomb is just far enough from the downtown hub to be considered still below the radar. But the drinks menu, which features 10 sakes of all varieties, makes it worth the trip. Bud Select and PBR drafts are only $1.50, sometimes even lower. And on Wednesdays — the bar's only regular special night — everything except cold sake is 2-for-1.

Insider tip: Get in good with the regulars now, because this place won't be a secret for long. In September, the Sake Bomb is moving to 548 Central Ave., next to the Emerald. Owners plan to add sushi, expand the menu to 20 sakes and add space for DJs, bands and art shows.

What else? If you're in the mood for Japanese, swing by Hook's Sushi Bar (1210 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, hookssushi.com) for its wildly popular $1 sushi night. From 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays, get more than 15 nigiri choices for $1 — but be prepared to wait, as there's often a crowd.

When and where: 187 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 542-8893; facebook.com/thesakebomb.

Cafe Alma

Why it's hot: It's nickel beer night! From 4:30 to about 9 p.m., half-pint Pabst Blue Ribbon drafts are only 5 cents apiece.

Insider tip? Stick around after happy hour, because every other week, the poetry group IV Poets (pronounced "for poets") holds an open reading. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday (Aug. 25).

What else? No story about this popular Mediterranean bistro can appear without expressly mentioning its acclaimed make-your-own Bloody Mary bar from 11 a.m. to about 3:30 on Saturdays and Sundays. But an even better deal might be on Tuesdays, when Cafe Alma offers half?price tapas and wine bottles (about 25 selections per week) from 4:30 to 11 p.m.

When and where: 260 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 502-5002, cafealma.com

Miercoles y Viernes at Mirage

Why it's hot: Sure, Ybor City can be fun. But if you really want to dance — salsa, merengue, bachata — head to Mirage, which offers the hottest Latin nights in Tampa Bay. Wednesday delivers free drinks for women until midnight and no cover all night, plus free shots and $2 Coronas. There might be a wait to get in, but inside, couples are dancing in every corner of the bar. The party keeps going on Fridays, when the dress code is a little tighter — but everyone gets in free until 11 p.m.

The back story: Other Latin and reggaeton clubs have come and gone, but Mirage has been there for much of the past decade. "That's where the party's at, and that's where the party's always been," said Luis Gonzalez, a.k.a. DJ Speedy, who spins hip-hop both nights.

Insider tip: If you can't dance, no problem — Island Touch Dance ( islandtouchdance.com) offers free salsa classes starting at 9 p.m. each Wednesday. And tbt* recently rounded up more than two dozen of the top salsa studios in Tampa Bay. Find one at tinyurl.com/2d2etp5.

What else? Just 2 1?2 miles north sits Studio Inc., which is more hip?hop-centric, but Saturdays (and some special events on other nights) have a strong Latin flavor. Superstars like Tego Calderon, Toby Love, Fuego and Johnny Rivera have all performed there. It's at 3603 W Waters Ave.

When and where: 3605 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa; (813) 673-8835, miragetampa.com. — Jay Cridlin

Wednesday Liter Night at the Dubliner Irish Pub

Why it's hot: In a world of ounces, pints and even yards of beers, the Dubliner stands apart with its Liter Nights. The South Tampa Irish pub serves liters of draft beer for $6 every Wednesday. Any kind goes, from Miller Lite to Guinness. And for those who slept through the metric lesson in school, that's a very good deal. One liter equals 33.8 ounces, or nearly three bottles of beer. Just don't nurse it or it will get warm, and everyone knows that chugging hot beer isn't fun.

The back story: The Dubliner started Liter Night several years ago to attract bargain hunters who might not stop in otherwise. Co?owner Richard Campion brought the idea from the James Joyce Irish Pub in Ybor City, which he owned before opening the Dubliner in 2002. Campion hails from the Irish capital, hence the name and familiarity with the measurement system most Americans prefer to ignore.

Insider tip: Try to get your brew served in one of Dubliner's plastic mugs, which are in short supply thanks to kleptos in the crowd. Otherwise you've got to drink from handle-less cups the size of Big Gulps, which can be hard to hold after one.

What else: Cheap beer is the main draw, but a close second is the Daniel B. Marshall band, which starts at 9 p.m. The band plays on the deck under the white tarp roof and performs everything from John Mayer to Queen. Not quite ready to party on Hump Day? The band also plays at the Dub on Saturday nights.

Where and when: Starts at 8 p.m. at 2307 W Azeele St., Tampa; (813) 258-2257; thedublineririshpub.com. No cover. — Susan Thurston

Pulp the Party at Czar

Why it's hot: The weekly "Pulp the Party" helped spark a renaissance for subculture dance nights in Ybor City and beyond. No need to peacock here, folks; just let your freak flag fly. "It's about blowing off steam and not having to pop your collars or putting on a jacket," said mastermind Paul Geller, a.k.a. DJ Pauly Crush, of Orlando. "We take pride in delivering music that isn't being played at other clubs yet, or maybe ever will — certainly not on the radio." That means maintaining a core group of like-minded DJs with similar musical tastes; Geller even grooms new up-and-coming DJs to fill in. Pulp also brings quality drink specials, like a free keg of Stella Artois, $1 and $2 vodka drinks and free vodka shots when a snow machine goes off twice an hour. For Pulp's third anniversary party in July, they offered free drinks from 9 p.m. to midnight, and there was a line around the block to get in.

The back story: Geller was hosting a couple of popular weekly parties in Orlando, and a connection at Czar led them to start up a night in Tampa. Pulp started on Friday nights, but moved to Wednesdays in 2009. As you might expect, the crowds are a little smaller now, but Geller said it's enabled them to cut drink prices while continuing to play non-mainstream music.

Insider tip? RSVP at pulptheparty.com for free cover; otherwise it's $5. Know your Czar geography: First comes the tightly packed Cyberia Vodka Bar, then the bigger dance floor in the Bela-Rus Ballroom, then the Imperial Ballroom, which is used for concerts but often is roped off. (Of note: the Bela-Rus Ballroom has a dance pole. Just sayin'.)

What else? When Pulp moved to Wednesdays, Czar brought in another party, Filthy Richard, on Friday nights. This one features mostly Tampa DJs and a killer "Broke Ass Bottle Service" — a bottle of liquor and a pitcher of mixers for $15-$18.

When and where: Starts at 10 p.m. Wednesdays at Czar, 1420 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City. — Jay Cridlin

VRSE The Sh*t Show at the Ybor City Social Club

Why it's hot: These nights have grown popular due to their cheap drinks and specials: $1 wells and PBR drafts, $3 PBR tallboys and free and $1 shot specials are common, as well "killing the keg" for free. DJs Lesage, Marquiz and Great Light spin a variety of electro-pop, old-school, and indie hits, which keeps the dance floor constantly in motion. It's recommended for those who enjoy Pulp the Party at Czar, or Thursday nights at the Castle.

The back story: The team at Nocturnal Productions came up with the idea for the evening using the cryptic title "VRSE The Sh*t Show." VRSE came because the venue was formerly a church, and patrons are encouraged to pen their own "verses" and text them to the bar, which displays them on flat screens positioned throughout the bar. With DJ's simultaneously performing upstairs and downstairs, the "Sh*t Show" part of the moniker came about due to the amount of cheap and free drinks, as everyone who attends can easily get s---faced. It's as simple as that.

Insider tip: By signing up on their guest list through links posted on their Facebook page, you can get in free until 11. You save $5, which can be turned into five more drinks.

What else: Every Wednesday has a different theme, with contests, giveaways and prizes. Some previous themes: The ABC (Anything But Clothes) Party, which offered a cash prize for the best outfit, or lack thereof; a Night Glow Party, providing free neon glasses and glow toys. For this past Wednesday's Summer Skool question, bartenders asked guests an elementary or high school question. Answer correctly, and you got a free shot or cigarette.

When and where: 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. at the Ybor City Social Club, 1909 15th St., Ybor City; (813) 732-1021. Find VRSE The Sh*t show on Facebook. — Aaron Lepley

THURSDAY

Nickel Beer Night at the Bulls Club

Why it's hot: Let's see … offer 5?cent draft beers and tons of beer pong in a sports bar a mile and a half from a college campus — nope, we just can't figure out the appeal.

The back story: Nickel beer nights are a staple in college towns, although in reality, this Thursday special isn't as great as it sounds, since there's a $6 cover to get in. Still, that hasn't stopped plenty of USF students from turning the Bulls Club into the Beer Pong Capital of Tampa — show your ID to play for $5 and get unlimited 12-ounce Bud Select drafts.

Insider tip: Get there early to make the most of your money — between 11 p.m. and midnight, the place can go from dead to packed in a heartbeat. Bring quarters and dollars, not actual nickels, as the bar prefers to sell its drafts in batches. And don't overlook the "Alco-Buddy" breath machine near the exit. For $1, you can test your breath to get your BAC. The machine says "For amusement purposes only," though, so don't expect your borderline 0.07 to hold up in court.

What else? A quick lesson in Economics 101: Let's say you want four beers. At the Bulls Club on Thursdays, you would pay $6.20 — $6 for the cover and 20 cents for the beer. Another top USF nightclub, Peabody's Billiards (15333 Amberly Drive, peabodysbilliards.com), offers $1 domestic drafts on Wednesday nights — with no cover — which puts you down only $4. Suddenly, nickel beer night doesn't sound so awesome, huh?

When and where: Starts at 9 p.m. Thursdays at the Bulls Club, 1251 E Fowler Ave., Tampa; (813) 975-0402. — Jay Cridlin

FRIDAY

Fridays at MacDinton's Irish Pub

Why it's hot: You know a bar is jumping when it parks an ATM trailer next to the entrance. That's the case on Fridays at MacDinton's, where party-goers start lining up for "Crazy Happy Hour" at 5:30 p.m. The $10 wristband gets you all?you-can-drink draft beer, house wine and well drinks, Jack Daniels included, from 6 to 8 p.m. Get there early because the wristbands often sell out, signaling the bar has hit its 730-person capacity. And bring cash, because the bar doesn't take credit cards at the door. MacDinton's runs on all cylinders Friday nights, with six bars indoors and on the patio, a live band and valet parking. The crowd thins out once happy hour ends but re-swarms by 9:30 or 10 p.m. for the second shift.

The back story: MacDinton's started the happy hours not long after re-opening eight years ago to create a draw during dinner time, a normally slow time for bars. Its success has made it a MacDinton's mainstay, especially among the young, pretty South Tampa crowd. Surprisingly, the price has never changed.

Insider tip? Anyone who parks at the Heart Center at 509 S Armenia Ave. can buy a wristband starting at 5:30 p.m. and avoid standing in the line. You can also enter a weekly drawing for two free wristbands by filling out a feedback form on MacDinton's website.

What else? MacDinton's has the same $10 open bar special on Wednesdays from 9 to 11 p.m. Its sister bar across the street, Cork, has the special on Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m., but it's only beer and wine.

When and where: 6 to 8 p.m. every Friday at MacDinton's, 405 S Howard Ave., Tampa; (813) 251-8999; macdintons.com. — Susan Thurston

Female impersonation Fridays at Blur

Why it's hot: Two words: sequins and shame. The drag queens at Blur — including well-known performers Natasha Richards, Melanie Minyon and Stephanie Shippae — love to tease the adoring crowd. Richards, decked in leather pants and pasties, recently called a Paris Hilton clone in the club "Paris Ramada." It's one?half hilarious comedy routine, one?half fierce lip sync concert (Alejandro, Vogue, lots of fringe and twirling) with an open dance floor between sets. And it's all tucked away in tidy little Dunedin.

The back story: Blur isn't a gay club — just gay friendly. But when it opened in the place of gay club 1470 West four years ago, the owners (who also operate neighboring Kelly's and the Chic-a-Boom Room) decided to keep the door-busting Friday night drag show tradition in tact. It hasn't slowed.

Insider tip: The queens put on two shows a night, with different songs and costumes. Get there an hour early to snag a table and chairs, but be warned — come showtime, the crowd may filter in front of your table and block your hard-fought view. As far as parking, check behind Kelly's or try one of Dunedin's free city lots down side streets off Main Street.

What else: Blur manager and DJ Gus Shafman points out that Dunedin offers a progressive nighttime experience — dinner at Kelly's or any of the restaurants downtown, drinks at Chic-a-Boom Room and dancing at Blur.

When and where: Shows at 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. $5 cover. 325 Main Street, Dunedin; (727) 736-0206, kellyschicaboom.com. — Stephanie Hayes

Paradise Fridays at Prana

Why it's hot: No matter what time of night you hit Ybor City on a Friday, you're going to see a line at Prana. It may be a line out the door. It may be a line to get up to the VIP level and rooftop bar. It may be a line that fills an entire dance floor. But it's worth wading through every line to get to the fifth floor, which offers Ybor's only rooftop party and a lovely view of Ybor City and Tampa. You can see fireworks from there on holidays.

The back story: Prana has been so consistently popular that it's hard to remember it was a restaurant, La Mezzanine, until 2001. Today it's Ybor City's only five-story nightclub. The first two floors (and the roof) are hip-hop and reggae; the third floor is Prana's "Sanctuary," a dark, chilled-out VIP lounge with an aquarium and more private bar; the fourth floor is a packed, sweaty dance hall. "Our fourth floor is by far, on any given night, our most popular floor," said general manager Chris Whitaker. "That's where we have our huge light show, laser show, our biggest soundsystem. That's our biggest wide-open dance floor, and we have go-go dancers on two elevated platforms."

Insider tip: A quick road map to Prana, starting out on the street: The longest line, stretching east, is general admission ($10). For $15, you can skip to a shorter, quicker line on the other side of the entrance. Closer to the street is a podium for VIP entry, which is $30 and gets you into the Sanctuary. If you want to go upstairs and don't have a VIP wristband, do so early, as guards may rope off the staircase to keep crowds manageable. You can also rent the roof for private functions; call for rates.

What else? There's no shortage of mainstream party scenes on Friday nights in Tampa. In Ybor City, hip-hop lovers have Club Skye (1509 E Eighth Ave., skye1509.com) and Full Moon Saloon (1613 E Seventh Ave., coolfishdesign.com/fullmoon), both of which get busy on Fridays. And in downtown Tampa, you have Jackson's Bistro (601 S Harbour Island Blvd., jacksonsbistro.com) along the waterfront and AJA Channelside (290 S Meridian Ave., ajachannelside.com) staging their ever-popular bashes, with music, celebrity DJs and well-dressed patrons.

When and where: The lines start at 10 p.m. at Prana, 1619 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City; (813) 241-4139, clubprana.com. — Jay Cridlin

Weekends After Hours at the Hard Rock

Why it's hot: The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa stands apart from the rest of the club and bar scene by virtue of one simple fact — the casino is on Seminole land, making it exempt from last call restrictions. Floyd's, the nightclub inside Hard Rock, is open 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The music is generally hip-hop on Fridays and house and electro on Saturdays; you'll want to arrive before midnight if you want to pay only half of the $20 cover. While Floyd's and the Center and Lobby bars are very popular during normal hours (the Lobby Bar gets especially packed on weekends, when DJs play a solid mix of dance tunes from the last four decades), it's the after-hours action that many come for. On weekends you can stay at the Center or Lobby bars until 5 a.m., where you'll find many after-hours types that aren't as interested in the club scene as they are in getting a drink when nobody else will serve one. This includes many people working in bars in Ybor, who head to the casino at the end of their shift.

The back story: While the casino has been in this location for many years, it was only in 2008 that table games like blackjack and baccarat brought in a clientele that tends to focus on the party aspect of the casino experience.

Insider tip: You may bump into your favorite bartenders at the Center Bar, where many service industry folks head when their own bars close at 3 a.m. Buy them a drink — they've made enough of them for you!

Bonus insider tip: Get to Floyd's as soon as you can, because word around the blackjack tables is that the club is expanding and will become the Hard Rock Cafe and Nightclub in the coming months. Crews recently started construction on the outside and are expected to start interior renovations soon. No official word on what's happening, but it's a good bet the club hopes to reopen bigger and better.

What else? Even though Floyd's isn't open on weekdays, you can still drink until sunrise at the Center Bar, which is open 24/7 throughout the week. This may ultimately lead to a head-shaking re-examination of your life priorities, but there's something to be said for the level of decadence involved in sitting at a casino bar, drinking cocktails while most people are getting ready for work.

When and where: The partying starts early, but it's the only game in town from 3 a.m. to 6 p.m. 5223 N Orient Road, Tampa; seminolehardrocktampa.com. — Justin Grant

SATURDAY

Retro Red Square Recall Saturdays at Orpheum

Why it's hot: Hipsters far and wide turn out for this sink-or-swim dance party in one of Ybor City's indie rock corners. Girls in ballet flats and tatted guys in skinny jeans flock weekly for the eclectic mix of music from DJs Rig and Noi — danceworthy new stuff like Friendly Fires, Hot Chip and the Bravery, sprinkled with guilty pleasures like Whitney Houston, the Jackson Five and Justin Timberlake.

The back story: About eight years ago, DJs Rig and Noi got the idea to start a digital dance party designed to depart from the Orpheum's typical live band format. Retro Red Square Recall Saturdays were originally focused on British pop, gradually morphing into the electro-indie dancefest it is today.

Insider tip: Arrive early to get your fill at the bar, because when the crowd ramps up after 11, it's tough to nudge in an elbow. And when a really popular song comes on, head to the restroom. It's the only time to pee without a line. Thank you, Lady Gaga.

What else: You'll want to eat before drinking your face off and dancing to the point of dehydration, so stop by New York New York for a slice of pizza or hit Mema's Alaskan Tacos for a handmade tamale. Your liver will thank you.

When and where: Doors open at 10 p.m. every Saturday. $12 all?you-can-drink wells or draft beer. 1902 Republica de Cuba Ave., Ybor City; (813) 248-9500, rrsr.com. — Stephanie Hayes

Guys' Night at G.Bar

Why it's hot: In a town that prides itself on its bikini babes and stripper clubs, it's nice to see the guys getting a little love, too. At G.Bar, it happens every Saturday, when guys in tight underwear shake their thang on the bar for adoring male fans. This gay dance club and video lounge buzzes with testosterone on Saturday, its signature night. (Fridays are for the estrogen gang.) Most of the GaYbor crowd ends up there at some point.

The back story: Anyone familiar with Tampa's bar scene knows Ybor has had its share of ups and downs in the past several years. One of the bright spots has been G.Bar, which opened in 2006 and has managed to stay fresh and hip. Its success led owners Stephen Moss and Steven Donahue to add the Honey Pot, Ybor City Social Club and Ybor Eagle.

Insider tip: G.Bar isn't just place for gay men — or lesbians, for that matter. Straight girls actually dig the place because they can dance and be themselves without having a bunch of guys trying to slime on them. Even the male dancers are open-minded. About half of them are straight and have no qualms about guys slipping dollar bills in their drawers. Just be prepared to see men making out vigorously on the dance floor.

What else: Last year, G.Bar added a VIP lounge and bottle service to accommodate guests celebrating birthdays, bachelorette parties and other special occasions. It's offering a $99 special on a bottle of Finlandia.

Where and when: 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturdays at 1401 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City; yborclubs.com. $5 cover.— Susan Thurston

SUNDAY

Sundays at Shephard's Beach Resort

Why it's hot: It's easy to see why a daytime party would be a hit on Clearwater Beach: swimsuits, sand, liquor and loud music have a long and well-known history with each other. You'll find that tradition going strong at the Tiki Bar at Shephard's Beach Resort on Sundays, when DJs Kidd Leow, Barry Carew and Ray spin a mix of classic and top 40 hip-hop, house and electro to a crowd of heavily tanned, fist-pumping clubbers while the sun is still high in the sky. Cover is $3, but once you're in, well drinks and domestic 14-ounce beers are only $1. There are other specials involving "bomb" drinks (liquor and Red Bull) and pitchers of cocktails with premium liquors. Guests can also step onto the beach and take a swim or lounge on the sand.

The back story: Shephard's has been a big destination for party people on Clearwater Beach for many years. The resort has its own lounge, outdoor bars and even a nightclub, all featuring DJs and/or live music. But it's hard to think of a more appropriate application for a large beach resort than a daytime beach party. Although the resort is popular with tourists, the regular events are packed with locals who come every week.

Insider tip: Keep an eye out for bartender Casey Cothran, one of the competitors in tbt*'s Ultimate Bartender contest (Page 30). His signature drink involves rum, peach liqueur, something blue (curacao?) and grenadine. He calls it a "Murdered Smurf," and it's more palatable than the name and alarming blue and red layers suggest.

What else? When the party winds down, stumble next door to Shephard's Wave Nightclub, where VJ Ray spins hip-hop, house and techno from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.

When and where: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. every Sunday at Shephard's Beach Resort, 619 S Gulfview Blvd., Clearwater Beach; (727) 441-6875, shephards.com. — Justin Grant

LADIES NIGHTS

AJA Wiregrass

How do you make Thursdays in Wesley Chapel seem cool? Easy: On Thursdays, give free champagne and martinis to ladies from 9 to 11 p.m., not to mention fashionable gifts and priz es. 28330 Paseo Drive, Suite 190, Wesley Chapel; (813) 994-0002, ajawiregrass.com.

Bishop Tavern and Lounge

This place gets busier when college is in session, but one promotion is always strong: On "Thirst Thursdays," ladies drink free until midnight. Plus there are shot specials and $3 drinks in the more upscale Bishop Lounge upstairs. 260 First Ave. N, St. Petersburg; (727) 564-3628, thebishoptavern.com.

Cheap

This SoHo bar and sushi joint offers specials every night, but from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, ladies get half off sangria, top-shelf cocktails and sushi roles, plus $1 crudo bites and discount pizzas. (Keep an eye out for hospitality specials, including half off select beers and sangrias, at 11 p.m. Thursdays.) 309 S Howard Ave., Tampa; (813) 258-5878, cheapinshoho.com.

Coyote Ugly

If you've ever wanted to dance on a bar, this is the place to do it. Ladies drink free from 9 p.m. to midnight on Wednesday. 1722 E Seventh Ave., Ybor City; (813) 228-8459, coyoteuglysaloon.com/tampa.

Dallas Bull

Tampa Bay's largest country megaclub holds around 3,000 on busy nights. Often, that's Thursday, which is Ladies Night. Women drink free until 1 a.m. … which, coincidentally, is exactly when the bar's rowdiest buckaroos congregate for "The Gator," the rowdiest, randiest, raunchiest dancefloor display you've ever seen. 3322 U.S. 301 N, Tampa; (813) 987-2855, dallasbull.com.

Red Mesa Cantina

At "Lucha for the Ladies Thursday," get $3 martinis, mojitos, margaritas and champagne from 7 p.m. to close at the Lucha Bar. 128 Third St. S, St. Petersburg; (727) 896-6372, redmesacantina.com.

The Round Up

Can you call it a Ladies Night if there's a $500 bikini bull-ride contest involved? Probably not, which might be why this country bar ended them this summer. Still, the free drinks for women from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. (and for guys from 9 to 11 p.m.) make it worth the trip. And the bull's still there — just keep your clothes on for now, please. The Round Up, 13918 W Hillsborough Ave., Tampa; (813) 855-1229, theroundup.com.

Timpano

What goes better with $3 martinis and house wine? Free appetizers. That's what ladies get Tuesdays at this Hyde Park martini bar and restaurant from 6 p.m. to close. Each week the chef prepares a different appetizer, which is served to the ladies at about 7 p.m. Get there close to starting time if you want a table indoors. 1610 W Swann Ave., Tampa; (813) 254-5870; timpanochophouse.net.

Votka Gastro Lounge

In one of the more unusual Ladies Night promotions in Tampa Bay, Votka started bringing in a beauty consultant so women can get their hair and makeup done while they party. (The promotion has ended, but owners plan to start it up again soon.) Plus, women drink free from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. 25032 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater; (727) 796-2442, votkalounge.com.

MUSIC NIGHTS

The Brass Mug

The specials are okay — $2 PBR tallboys, 75-cent pool, 50-cent darts — but we defy you to name another bar in Tampa Bay that promises "death, thrash, black, sludge, doom and traditional metal." Yes, the Brass Mug recently launched "Metal Mayhem Wednesdays" ( myspace.com/heavymetal overdose), with metal music and a vinyl record trading show on the last Wednesday of each month. It's 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. at 1441 E Fletcher Ave., Suite 101, Tampa; (813) 972-8152, myspace.com/brassmug.

Crowbar

One of the top indie rock clubs in Tampa, Crowbar stages the area's most popular hip-hop open mic, dubbed "Da Cypher," on Wednesdays. Hosted by rapper and scene leader Aych since 2006, it's $5 to get in; performances start about 11:30 p.m. 1812 N 17th St., Ybor City; (813) 241-8600, crowbarlive.com.

Dunedin Brewery

Anything goes at Dunedin Brewery — punk, jam, folk, blues and indie. But on Tuesdays at 8 p.m., it's time for "Drum and Dance," a weekly drum circle that attracts some 20 to 25 beatniks per week. Bring your own bongos and bang along. 937 Douglas Ave., Dunedin; (727) 736?0606, dunedinbrewery.com.

Fly Bar and Restaurant

On Thursdays, Tampa DJs Soft Rock Renegades hold down the beats at this smooth downtown Tampa hangout. But Thursdays are also "Mug Club" nights — $2 refills and 2-for-1 bottled beers starting at 10 p.m. 1202 N Franklin St., Tampa. (813) 275-5000, flybarandrestaurant.com.

Skipper's Smokehouse

Who said Jerry Garcia was dead? Not the Grateful Dead tribute act Uncle John's Band, which has held a Thursday night residency at the Skipperdome for a dozen years. There's a $7 cover … but you can't put a price on love, man. 910 Skipper Road, Tampa; (813) 971-0666, skipperssmokehouse.com.

Stumps Supper Club/Howl at the Moon

Want to be a rock star? Do it at Rockstar Fridays, a karaoke night with a live backing band. Led by Tommy Tutone guitarist Jimmy James, the band offers more than 300 songs from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., and there are specials like $2 Bud and Bud Light drafts. Or head next door to Howl at the Moon, where dueling pianos take center stage from Thursday to Saturday. Both are located at Channelside Bay Plaza, 615 Channelside Drive, Tampa; stumpssupperclub.com, howlatthemoontampa.com.

Tre Amici @ The Bunker

Technically it's a coffeeshop, not a bar … but they do sell wine and select bottled imports. And Thursday is singer-songwriter night, featuring some of the area's top talents in an intimate setting from about 7 to 9 p.m. 1907 N 19th St., Ybor City; (813) 247-6964, yborbunker.com, myspace.com/treamicimusic.

Yeoman's Road Pub

Tuesdays at this locals-only British Pub on Davis Islands are some of the best open mic nights in Tampa Bay. There's a wide array of music, from jam reggae to singer-songwriters, in 15-minute sets from 10 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Sign up by 9 or 9:30 p.m. if you want to play, because it can get crowded. 236 E Davis Blvd., Tampa; (813) 251-2748, myspace.com/yeomansdi.

HOSPITALITY NIGHTS

The Freaki Tiki

Billing itself as "The Hospitality Hotspot," this beachy bar on U.S. 19 offers cheap drinks every night of the week, including $1 drinks on Sunday and Monday (traditional hospitality nights). We'd also recommend their 5-for-$5 buckets Thursday nights, or their ladies-drink-free promotion from 9 p.m. to close on Tuesdays. 28778 U.S. 19 N, Clearwater; (727) 329-6160, freakitikibar.com.

L.A. Hangout

Free billiards, $1.50 pints, select $2 bottles, $6 pitchers and discounted cocktails for hospitality employees, starting at 10 p.m. Tuesdays. Can't beat that with a pool cue. 16411 N Florida Ave., Lutz; (813) 964-5631, thehangoutbar.com.

Lagerhaus Brewery and Grill

This place doesn't discriminate. Tuesday is hospitality night, and Wednesday is medical professionals' night. And whether you're a bartender or a board-certified physician, you get the same deal: 20 percent off your bill. That's good if you love beer because this place has eight to 10 rotating beers on tap and at least 30 others in a bottle. 3438 East Lake Business, Palm Harbor; (813) 343-2449, lagerhausbrewery.com.

The Lodge

Bartenders have to eat, too! From 5 p.m. to midnight Mondays, hospitality workers get their choice of select $5 sushi rolls, not to mention half off drinks. 516 S Howard Ave., Tampa; (813) 251-5634, lodgetampa.com.

Pan y Vino

A unique take on hospitality: On "Teacher Tuesdays," educators with ID get 20 percent off their bill. Hey, if you had to deal with some of these kids all day, you'd need a drink, too. 369 Main St., Dunedin; (727) 734-7700, pany vino.com. (The same deal applies at Pan y Vino's sister bistro, Cabana Cafe and Gifts, during lunch hours on Tuesdays. 833 Douglas Ave., Dunedin; cabanacafeandgifts.com.)

The Rack

One of South Tampa's favorite suds 'n' sushi joints offers half off to hospitality employees starting at 7 p.m. Sundays, plus $2 Miller Lites, $3 Heinekens and $4 Three Olives cocktails. The deals are good at the new Rack in Brandon, too. 1025 W Brandon Blvd., Brandon, (813) 571-7225; 1809 W Platt St., Tampa, (813) 250-1595; hittherack.com.

World of Beer

Getting half off all drafts with a service industry card is a good deal. But when you consider that World of Beer usually has three dozen or more excellent craft beers on tap, it's an absolute steal. The deal runs 9 p.m. to midnight Mondays in Tampa Palms, St. Pete and Carrollwood and 9 p.m. to close at the original World of Beer in Westchase. wobusa.com.

LATIN NIGHTS

Blue Martini Lounge

Got two left feet? Check out Blue Martini at International Plaza, which offers free salsa lessons at 9 p.m. Tuesdays for its "Azul Latin Night." There's a $5 cover after 9 p.m. 2223 N West Shore Blvd., Tampa; bluemartinilounge.com.

Boomerang Martini Bar

Has this long-cursed Brandon location has finally found a keeper? On Fridays, the line is out the d oor for Latin Night Live. Specials start at 6 p.m., with $4 premium drinks and appetizers. Women drink free and guys get 2-for-1 until 11 p.m. 2016 Town Center Boulevard; (813) 655-1700, boomerangmartinibar.com.

Ceviche

While not exactly a Latin club night, this popular tapas joint does offer a heck of a deal on Tuesdays: A $4-and-under tapas menu and $4 sangria. Three locations: 1501 S Howard Ave., Tampa; 10 Beach Drive, St. Petersburg; 2930 Gulf to Bay Blvd., Clearwater. ceviche.com.

Whiskey North

Whiskey North's Latin night on Thursday also doubles as its Ladies Night. So if you're in the mood for salsa and merengue while sipping $1 wells, come to exotic Carrollwood. 11921 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa; (813) 968-1515, whiskeynorth.com.

Party time: The best nights at 50 of Tampa Bay's best bars 08/20/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 31, 2010 10:36am]

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