Movers and booty shakers filled the Kennedy last Friday. Midnight had arrived. The South Tampa nightclub brimmed with fun, naughty energy.
Bass-intensive rhythms suffused the room and propelled the action. Two petite women in tiny dresses giggled while grinding hard against each other on the swarming dance floor. Darting, yellow beams revealed a most provocative flash of young flesh.
I placed a heavy glass tumbler to my lips. Took a long pull from my strong whiskey drink. Smiled from my stadium-seating perch in the VIP section. Reached for my reporter's notebook and turned to club kingpin Tommy Ortiz.
"As far as bay area nightclubs go, this one is tough to beat," he said.
One of SoHo's newest nightclubs, the Kennedy is at the entertainment district's northern border. The interior walls are wine- colored and mostly shrouded in shadows. Gold leafing and 5,000 handsomely designed posters add to the refined ambience. There is a giant, ornate center bar and surrounding drinking stations. A large stage and DJ booth are the focal point of the space. Booming beats and pristine acoustics come courtesy of the excellent Funktion-One hybrid sound system.
"The only other place in the state you'll find one is Miami," Ortiz said.
But it's hotties — not high-tech gear — that make the Kennedy one of Tampa Bay's top nightspots.
A line forms outside the door Thursdays through Saturdays. Women always get in free unless there's a special event. Guys typically pay a very reasonable $7. People receive an SLG (SoHo Leisure Group) wristband or "Come See Me Pass" from the Kennedy, Hyde Park Café or Cheap (Ortiz has a hand in all three). This entitles guests to a complimentary beverage and "line privileges" to all three locations.
Cocktails at the Kennedy start at about $7. The bartenders are well versed in all varieties of libations and, perhaps most important, are fast and attentive. There are drink and bottle specials before midnight. Hungry? Food will be brought to you from Cheap.
When I visited the Kennedy last Friday, Baltimore rapper DJ Class was the main attraction. He hit the stage about 1 a.m. and performed his shout-along Top 40 hit I'm the Ish. The rotund rapper had returned to the VIP area not 15 minutes after stepping to the mike. The crowd didn't seem to mind, though, as they jiggled and gyrated to the records being spun by the house DJ.
"We truly designed this venue for the passionate clubgoer," Ortiz said. "Seeing people have a great time, making sure they have a great time, is what makes us happy."
I started the night at Cheap and finished there, as well. Some very tasty pepperoni pizza capped the evening, which ended about 2:30 a.m. I walked back to my nearby apartment. I'm much more of a pub guy than clubgoer, but I did feel quiet fortunate to have such world-class nightlife within stumbling distance of my bed.
What's your favorite drinking destination? Contact Barfly columnist Wade Tatangelo at wtatangelo@ hotmail.com.