Under century-old oak trees on Skipper Road, the iconic, mural-covered Skipper's Smokehouse turned 30 this year.
"Thirty years of any business is unique," said manager Mark Warren, who handles marketing for the live music venue, restaurant and bar. "In the live entertainment industry, it's beyond unique and in Tampa Bay, as far as we know, it's a singular accomplishment. We're the last man, woman and mullet standing."
Skipper's started when Air Force friends Tom White, Vince McGilvra and Andy Bastman, who sold his share of the business to White and McGilvra more than 20 years ago, bought it in 1980.
"We'd really planned on building it up and flipping it out in five years," White said. "I had no idea where I was going to be 30 years from then."
He is still at Skipper's, and the joint still jumps. During anniversary week in September, 30 bands — including some that reunited just for the occasion — played outside in the Skipperdome.
The weeklong party was "beyond-our-wildest-dreams successful," Warren said. "Thousands of people, wall to wall. A lot of people we hadn't seen in years, (who) we assumed had joined the ranks of the dearly departed."
Some families have passed Skipper's on like a tradition. "It's a joy when you see parents and grandparents bringing in their little whippersnappers for their first taste of the Skipper's life," he said.
And, White said, Skipper's isn't going anywhere.
"The beat goes on," he said. "We keep on smokin'."
Arleen Spenceley, Times staff writer