It happens regularly that I set out to a new drinking establishment and find a place that I know will be difficult to write about. This generally does not reflect poorly on the bar itself. Usually it's the result of a simple, honest neighborhood bar having eschewed gimmicks and themes in favor of a comfortable atmosphere and strong support from the locals.
The Ofc Tavern, a new addition at the end of an inconspicuous shopping center on Bearss Avenue in Tampa, seems at first glance to fit into the latter category. It's your basic local bar, but unlike the latter scenario, it also has no shortage of gimmicks and themes. But these are quite varied, making it difficult to ascertain exactly what niche the Ofc Tavern fits into.
Now, I should make it clear that this isn't a bad thing. When I go to a bar, I don't care about the marketing or even the event calendar in many cases. I just want a solid drink and a fun or interesting place to drink it in. The Ofc Tavern fits the bill. But there's a lot going on at this place.
New bars often open in a wave of enthusiasm, with a packed calendar, theme nights and ambitious drink specials right out of the gate. This could be the case with the Ofc, as it has the bases covered for nearly all possible demographics. Ladies night? Every Sunday, with 3-for-1 drinks for ladies. Bike day? Also on Sundays, with motorcycle washing and beer specials. Karaoke? Tuesday nights. How about poker? Every Wednesday, as part of The Nutz Poker League.
And of course, there's an open-mic night (Mondays, with a $10 sink-or-swim special) and live music from local acts, such as the popular cover band Stormbringer (Fridays and Saturdays). But the theme night I'm really interested in is the "Office Party" on Thursdays, where the tavern's namesake television show is displayed on all of the bar's TVs, followed by a DJ.
See, the bar has a very loose office theme, which is a very original idea. I was half expecting to find cubicles instead of tables, or possibly a supervisor breathing down your neck as you sip your beer, but no — save for a small reference to Jim's stapler pranks from the television series, the place was, fortunately, not like an office at all.
Instead, the checkerboard tiles and neon-backlit glass block bar gave me the impression of an old-fashioned American diner. One with all the trappings of your well-stocked neighborhood bar, of course, including a new pool table (there's nothing better than a pool table with an unblemished felt), a jukebox, video games (including an impressive Multicade featuring a ton of early arcade classics such as Space Invaders, Dig Dug, Crystal Castles and Centipede), and a stage for live music.
The place is remarkably clean, possibly because it's relatively new, but I also got the impression that the staff takes good care of it. It's visually appealing, too, with just the right amount of lighting to properly accentuate the black, white and chrome color scheme. As the bar serves a full menu, smoking is not allowed inside.
As far as the drinks go, you won't find any shortage of the usual domestics, but there are a few import and craft beer selections in the cooler. Personally, I was in the mood for a cocktail and had a Canadian Club Manhattan, which was made quite well. The pours appeared to be generous, and the prices impressively fair, with even the most premium spirits falling into the $5 to $6 range.
The Ofc Tavern is a new bar with a lot of ideas, and I'm interested to see which of them stick. As it is now, there are plenty of creative promotions to keep everyone busy. It may not be a real office (are bars considered my "office?"), but it's surely a great place to stop by after work. As its slogan instructs, "Just tell 'em you're workin' late at the Office!" — firstname.lastname@example.org