Make us your home page
Instagram

Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.

Luis Santana/tbt*

Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.

There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

This is how I've wound up attempting to sing Japanese pop songs in a Korean karaoke bar, downing beers on a decrepit dock at a weathered bar hidden in the middle of the woods and doing shots of pumpernickel bread-flavored vodka chased with pickle slices while a man in a white suit and dark sunglasses played saxophone on the nearby stage, in between performing magic tricks.

Most recently, my affinity for strangeness led me to Les Partners Lounge, a long-running cocktail lounge and live music venue nestled into the corner of a nondescript shopping plaza located in a retirement community just east of Clearwater Beach.

My initial internet recon told me three things: Les Partners' clientele trends a bit older, the bar is adamantly smoker-friendly and the décor and atmosphere are from a bygone era — not reproduced, in this case, but as it was and presumably always has been.

I found all of these things to be true in abundance. The crowd, fairly dense on a Saturday night, was certainly qualified to live in the surrounding communities, though a few younger folks popped in throughout the evening. The smoke is, well, present. If you took a photo with the flash on, it might look like you took it with a cotton ball covering the lens. And you'd need the flash — the place is pitch black, with just a little light emanating from lanterns around the lounge area and behind the bar.

If you're in the market for an authentic, old school lounge — a place untouched by time — then Les Partners is your place. The interior is brick and wood, but that didn't stop anyone from suspending a disco ball over the dance floor. There's vintage, burgundy vinyl lounge seats — think of a Vegas showroom from a few decades ago — surrounding a band area, with the elaborate keyboard setup of Rick Fuller, who performs every Friday and Saturday night, bordered by piano-side seating, complete with oversized snifter-turned-tip jar.

If you get the impression that I'm having a laugh at Les Partners' expense, you're wrong. This place is so left field that I can't help but love it. In years past, it may have just seemed like any other lounge lizard hot spot, but today it's an atmospheric throwback that's too uncontrived to be enjoyed any way but unironically.

It also helps that it's friendly and fun. Granted, I visited on a Saturday that also happened to be the birthday of the owner of the next-door liquor store, so the balloons and overall celebratory vibe enhanced the surreal environment substantially. But the music was great, the crowd was alive and the bar staff kept the drinks coming at a surprising pace, never once necessitating a trip back to the bar.

In terms of drinks, you won't find many surprised at Les Partners, as the drink list is consistently old school. There are some house wines, a handful of standard beers on draft and in bottles and a reasonable liquor selection that covers the basics. If you really want to get into the spirit, order something especially anachronistic. A Harvey Wallbanger is the obvious choice, but a Rob Roy would also do the trick.

Les Partners may not be a best-kept-secret kind of place — it's very well-known within its target demographic of walking distance residents — but it's definitely one that you'd easily miss if you weren't looking for something out of the ordinary.

Perhaps some folks would prefer to stick with their regular haunts, but for me, discovering places like Les Partners is a lot more fun.

Contact Justin Grant at jg@saintbeat.com. Follow @WordsWithJG.

Les Partners Lounge

144 Island Way, Clearwater (Island Estates); (727) 461-2442; lespartners.com

The vibe: A dark, smoky and impressively retro lounge.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $3 to $3.75; wine, $4 to $5; liquor, $4.50 to $8.

Specialty: The selection is pretty basic here, but the cocktails are cheap, strong and free-flowing. I stuck with my default, scotch and soda, which also happens to be appropriately old-school, in keeping with the setting. Best of all, the bar staff is extremely attentive and will make sure your glass doesn't go dry, even if you're sitting in the lounge area.

Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. daily.

Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater 06/22/17 [Last modified: Thursday, June 22, 2017 7:55pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Artist exchange creates Tampa-Havana friendships

    Visual Arts

    SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — Bad weather rocked the Southwest Airlines flight from Havana to Tampa.

    Marian Valdes of Havana, Cuba, who is a resident artist through the Tempus Projects artist exchange program, stands for a portrait at the non-profit art space in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, July 17, 2017. Valdes has an upcoming exhibit titled “Addicted Involution.”
  2. Bar review: Attic Cafe and Bar, brews with views of downtown Tampa

    Bars & Spirits

    It's ironic that Tampa Bay WaVE — an entrepreneur incubator with an eye on growing Tampa's tech startups — keeps its offices in a century-old building originally used as an auditorium for the adjacent Masonic Lodge.

    One big plus at the Attic Cafe & Bar is its patio and balcony, where you can spy City Hall and a few other landmarks in downtown Tampa. Local history also figures prominently.
  3. Local craft beer of the week: Joosy Froot IPA from Tampa Bay Beer Works

    Bars & Spirits

    Tampa Beer Works has always been a bit of an odd duck. Originally opened as ESB Brewing Co. by the owners of the adjacent homebrew supply store, the company rebranded and reopened last year with a new name, new head brewer, new recipes and a new brewing philosophy. This includes a range of beers treated with novel …

    Photo by Justin Grant/special to tbt*
  4. Behind the lens: To capture an exhilarating moment, it's better to be lucky AND good

    Travel

    Editor's note: Boyzell Hosey, our Assistant Managing Editor - Photography/Multimedia, shot this image while on a family vacation in Alaska. Below is his description of the shot.

  5. Looking Back: The Ybor City Streetcar gets a new life (Dec. 27, 1991)

    Attractions

    Before World War II Tampa's public transportation needs were covered by a network of Birney streetcars, with a peak of 24 million passengers in 1926. When a local streetcar enthusiast came across a 1920's model, she contacted the Tampa Trolley Society with an eye towards restoration. That streetcar would become the part …