There is no shortage of places to get cheaper drinks just after you clock out from your 9 to 5. Happy hours in the Tampa Bay area offer good food, cheap wells, entertainment and activities.
Finding the best happy hour deal and atmosphere took me all over, chasing tips and hoping to report something epic.
A tip came in that Cigar Castle in Temple Terrace had a special happy hour with half-priced everything, but when I arrived on a Monday I found something better: a bar where you could buy and smoke cigars. The happy hour special was standard; 2-for-1 well drinks littered the tables around the leather lounge chairs. Stogie smoke permeates everything in the shop and makes you feel somehow more important for being there.
At Bernini in Ybor, it seemed like they might run out of martini glasses, based on the number of empties on each table. From 4 to 8 p.m. daily, regulars come and eat half-priced pasta or entrees to set a solid foundation for a ton of $2 Finlandia martinis. Rainbows of martinis peppered the room as folks relaxed inside and outside the Italian restaurant.
While reporting a different story, I came across something special and remarkable: Frenchy's Tiki Pavilion at Bright House Field. Every Wednesday that the baseball schedule allows it, the field opens at 5 p.m. and serves free drinks to women between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. There's also free food (usually light fare) until supplies run out. Live musicians play as cornhole players practice for a weekly tournament. For the men, there's $3 bottled beers, well drinks and wine, $2 drafts and $4 calls. The early crowd can get pretty massive and lady-heavy, then begins to thin and even out as the cornhole tournament begins.
Crowds gather around pool tables and sidle up to the bars at The Rack in Hyde Park on Tuesday and Wednesday to get half-priced appetizers after 7 p.m. and drink $4.25 calls, $2.50 domestic drafts, $3.50 imported drafts and $3 house wines. The music pumps, the crowd sometimes gets silly, but the atmosphere remains relatively relaxed because it's hard to get riled up with a mouth full of sushi.
On Fridays, it seems the place to be is Peabody's Billiards and Games in New Tampa. The massive pool hall offers all-you-can-drink calls and beers for $12.49 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. The deal is also offered from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Tuesday. When your liver begs for mercy you can reach for your half-off mozzarella sticks, house-cut fries, chips con queso or spinach nachos to try and dull the sweet pain. Since you obviously aren't driving anytime soon, stick around for a live DJ after 10 p.m.
There are worse ways to start your weekend. Better buy some aspirin beforehand, though.