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Carlton: Younger Redner fast becoming one of Tampa's favorite sons

What was it like growing up the son and namesake of Tampa’s undisputed strip club king? Joey Redner, now 41, has a hard time answering. But he has found his own success, as creator of Cigar City Brewing, which recently reached a deal to make the company’s brews available on Carnival Cruise ships.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

What was it like growing up the son and namesake of Tampa’s undisputed strip club king? Joey Redner, now 41, has a hard time answering. But he has found his own success, as creator of Cigar City Brewing, which recently reached a deal to make the company’s brews available on Carnival Cruise ships.

Imagine you are a boy growing up in Tampa, Florida, USA.

Now, imagine that pretty much everywhere in your town, your name — the one teachers say at roll call, the one by which you introduce yourself to strangers — immediately evokes images of naked women wrapped around stripper poles.

Now 41, Joey Redner is very familiar with the question: What was it like growing up as the son and namesake of Tampa's undisputed strip club king Joe Redner? He has a hard time answering. People made assumptions; boys were impressed. Maybe it's like growing up with red hair, the kind everyone seems to need to comment on. It just was.

But his feisty father's place in Tampa's history goes beyond dark clubs filled with men and dollar bills. It's Joe Redner getting arrested more than 100 times, often in the name of the First Amendment. It's public officials called out by name on the marquee of his nationally known Mons Venus club. It's Redner making enough money to thumb his nose at what he saw as hypocrisy, letting Occupy protesters camp at his neighborhood park and owning a building that makes him landlord to the IRS.

But if, at 74, the elder Redner is this town's wild uncle, the younger is fast becoming a favorite son.

The Cigar City Brewing company Joey Redner started five years ago (with financial help from his dad) to brew craft beers is scoring Tampa some serious cool-town points. "We're all real proud of Joey," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

Historical note: Buckhorn was once the elder Redner's nemesis on the City Council. In fact, Buckhorn was named "A------ of the Week" on that Mons marquee. But recently, the mayor offered congratulations on the news that Cigar City beer is now poured on Carnival Cruise ships sailing from Florida ports. Joe Redner will tell you he thinks this mayor is pretty good for the city.

Father and son had their conflicts as he grew up, but today is different. Joey thinks Joe ("an amazing guy") likes the passion around craft beer makers. Together, they've lobbied Washington, D.C. Joey says growing up with someone always talking due process and the Constitution gave him a knack for interpreting law fast and telling a well-paid lobbyist that actually, no, that's not what it says.

When he first tasted beer, he thought: This cannot be what everyone gets all excited about. He tried every new beer he could. Then, along came the craft beer boom, and here he is. Cigar City has more than 100 employees working at its brewery, tasting room and brew pubs at the airport and in the suburbs.

Joe Redner will tell you his son is "like me and better than me."

"I love him for the person he is," he said. "And I'm proud of him for the businessman he is."

The son seems to shrug at a comparison. "He's literally had case law established based on what he did," he said. "I make beer."

And so these days, being introduced as a Redner can get different reactions.

Older men Joey would instinctively call "sir" — the kind of men who have probably not sipped a Florida Cracker Belgian-Style White Ale — think strip club.

But to some millennials and hipsters, the ones who will have a say in where this town goes next, it's the brew and the businessman with Redner behind it.

Carlton: Younger Redner fast becoming one of Tampa's favorite sons 07/18/14 [Last modified: Friday, July 18, 2014 8:30pm]
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