While driving through downtown Tampa trying to find the Paddywagon Irish Pub, it occurred to me that there aren't a lot of bars catering to the growing number of folks actually living downtown.
There are some nice, newer options on Ashley, but running up a monstrous tab is a real threat, and one that may prevent the kind of regular, casual patronage that makes a place a neighborhood bar. On the other end of the scale is the Hub, which, though highly affordable, may not appeal to the majority of the young professionals populating the high-rise apartments that it neighbors. There's Hattricks Tavern for the hockey crowd, and Fly Bar, which is hip and urban but also a bit of a walk down a barren stretch of Franklin.
I finally found the Paddywagon, which is at the base of the Element apartments. The address is Franklin, but Paddywagon is actually in a suite on the Tampa Street side, so that explained that. My tired gripe about slapping the "Irish pub" tag on any new bar for no particular reason notwithstanding, the Paddywagon looked like it might just be the bar to fill the niche I had imagined.
With Irish street signs along the walls and a suitable amount of swag from the usual suspects — Guinness, Harp, Smithwick's, Jameson, and so on — the Paddywagon has done pretty much what it takes to make another Irish pub. However, if that was all that the Paddywagon had going on, the place would be far less interesting than I had hoped. Fortunately, it wasn't.
The Paddywagon has positioned itself as somewhat of an all-purpose pub — a smart move for a place that could be the downtown Tampa neighborhood bar. It has a little bit of everything: a wall of flat screens above the bar for the sports folks (as well as TapTV trivia), darts and pool for the pub crowd, 24 beers on tap and an extensive spirits selection.
Not wanting to leave anyone out, the Paddywagon is animal-friendly and smoker-friendly. Food is not served at the Paddywagon, but a kitchen seems scarcely needed when there are so many quick and quality options within three blocks, many of which offer delivery to the bar. Cigar smokers will be happy to see a full humidor behind the bar stocked with A. Fuente products, while nonsmokers will appreciate the apparently efficient smoke dissipation efforts, which include an industrial-strength smoke filter.
Is it the new neighborhood bar for downtown Tampa? Maybe. I can imagine a resident from the Element coming home after a day at the office and bringing the dog downstairs for a pint, or another nearby urban dweller stopping in to watch the game and order a pizza from around the corner.