Saturday, December 16, 2017
Bars & Spirits

Taps & Tequilas II a worthy successor to its St. Petersburg namesake

One downside to this gig is discovering new and interesting places, then watching them fail and close up shop. It's just part of business — weak location, high overhead, too small of a niche and other variables can all spell doom for even the most charming watering holes.

Fortunately, not many truly memorable bars go under so quickly. Even fewer go on to reappear a year or so down the road.

Taps & Tequila II (note the II) is one of these rare instances.

I was downright bummed when the old location went dark. It was an unusual spot, to say the least — a slick, neo-rustic tequila bar and taproom with a footprint that, quite honestly, was a bit too large for downtown St. Pete's interest in premium and house-infused tequilas could realistically sustain.

Its location was great — a short walk from Tropicana Field, and in an up-and-coming area of downtown that has been on the verge of making it big for a couple of years now — but the premise was a little out there for most. An outdoor beer garden and roomy, wood-rich lounge is great, but if you can't fill it with people, it doesn't mean much.

I'm not sure why the original spot closed, but I suspect it was a classic case of too much going out and not enough coming in. All I know for sure is that Taps & Tequila is back, and despite a surprising new twist, it's still got a lot of what made the original pretty cool.

Taps & Tequila II is now located even closer to the stadium than before, which may bode well for its success (post-gaming with a cold draft or top-shelf tequila sounds good to me). But if stadium proximity implies a built-in audience, then the fact that it's also located on the ground floor of the Urban Style Flats apartment complex means that a Taps & Tequila III may never be necessary. I'm glad I don't live there — my tequila bill would be through the roof.

The new Taps & Tequila takes a lot of the natural, wood-stained rustic look of the original and tosses it in with a funky, retro clubhouse look filled with plush swivel chairs that look like outtakes from the set of A Clockwork Orange; wood cutout room dividers; flickering skylights that are either severely malfunctioning or are intentionally programmed that way to mimic the inconsistent output of old-timey oil lamps; and about as many decorative wall mirrors as a well-stocked Bed, Bath and Beyond.

It's a nice place for residents to stop into for a nightcap, or before heading out for a night on the town, but it's also the kind of place you could spend all day at if you wanted to. Video games, pool and shuffleboard tables, a bookshelf filled with books and board games, an outdoor patio out front and another in back overlooking the pool, and a full-service kitchen give guests plenty of options, and that's not even saying anything about the drinks.

The old spot definitely had an edge in the taps department. This one is a little light on the beer, though there are a few decent options. Truthfully, though, it's always been about the tequila here, and nothing has changed in that regard. The cocktail list features a handful of tequila-based concoctions, there's a tequila list long and varied enough to interest even the most serious connoisseur, and the big draw from the start — a selection of house-infused tequilas available as flights or in cocktails — is still front and center behind the bar.

It's not necessary to look at Taps & Tequila II solely in the context of its predecessor, but it sure does retain a lot of the qualities that made it a repeat-visit destination for me a couple years ago. Even better, it gives me the chance to say something that I rarely get to do in this business: Welcome back. — [email protected]

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