Make us your home page
Instagram

Zo Lounge in Clearwater is worth the visit, despite unlikely location

From a glance, Zo Lounge looks like the kind of place that's destined for failure. The tiny nightclub is located on an aggressively unattractive, permanently-under-construction stretch of U.S. 19 in Clearwater, and simply pulling in and out of the dirt parking lot — which is also occupied by various construction vehicles — means weaving through neon-orange traffic barriers after taking a mile detour to make a U-turn if approaching from the south.

The neon-blue sign out front looks like a mirror image of another one farther south on U.S. 19; like that business, I had assumed for some time that Zo Lounge was a strip club. To me, the odds seemed heavily stacked against Zo Lounge.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I finally paid it a visit and found that my preconceived notions were wildly off the mark.

Somehow, Zo Lounge has avoided the curse of 25032 U.S. 19, an address that's hosted a number of short-lived nightclubs and lounges over the past few years. I never made it to any of the previous incarnations — Famous Cigars, Dirty Martini, Votka Gastro Lounge — so I wasn't really sure what to expect. A barren nightclub? A seedy lounge?

Neither, it turns out. As soon as I stepped into Zo Lounge, I was struck by how clean and attractive the place was. A long, winding bar flanked the left side of the main room, backed by a stone- wall façade and more than 100 different backlit spirit bottles arranged neatly along the length of the bar's back. Cool, blue light emanated from a Grey Goose-branded aquarium on one end.

The second thing I noticed was the music. The sound quality was excellent — pro quality — but it was also at a reasonable volume for the early part of the night, so people could mingle, order drinks without shouting and get into the mood before the DJ — positioned in a small booth between the bar and the large center dance floor — started to heat things up.

And heat up, they did. Zo Lounge may look oddly out of place from the street, but once you're inside, it seems like a thriving club. By 10:30 p.m., the dance floor was packed. Much of the crowd was a touch older than you'd find in Ybor — mostly 30-somethings — but the range of clientele was diverse, from young partiers to the girls-night-out crowds to older, suit-wearing guys sipping wine at one of the granite-topped tables at the booths along the wall.

An attached, closed-in room holds a second bar and VIP lounge seating, as well as an exit to an outdoor patio. Despite the apparently diminutive quarters — it's hard to believe this is the site of a legitimate nightclub when looking at it from the street — Zo Lounge feels roomy and very comfortable.

So why is Zo Lounge doing so well in a spot plagued by failed businesses? I think it all boils down to an attention to detail, offering a region with few club options an experience that they would otherwise have to cross the bridge to find. The staff is friendly and attentive; the music — ranging from live bands to DJ King JB from Wild 94.1 — is good and varies nightly; the drink specials are fair and the drinks themselves served strong; and, crucially, the place draws a real crowd.

I was surprised at what I found in that small, neon nightclub surrounded by gray, dusty construction, traffic congestion and shuttered storefronts. Not only is Zo Lounge a quality late-night club option for Clearwater folks who would prefer to stay on their side of the bay, it's a good club in its own right, offering all the frills of the big places over the bridge, even if the surrounding environment is just a little less polished.

Zo Lounge

25032 U.S. 19, Clearwater; (727) 725-3093, zolounge.com

The vibe: A hip, popular nightclub in a location where you'd least expect one.

Booze: Beer, $5.50-$6.75; wine, $5.50; liquor, $5.75-$9.75, although Johnnie Walker Blue Label is an exception at $22.

Specialty: The beer and wine options are basic, but there's plenty to choose from in the spirits department, ranging from imaginatively flavored vodkas and rums to high-end tequilas and single-malt scotch. Ask about the nightly specials, which include deals on a variety of drinks, including beers, sink-or-swim promotions and discounted bottle service, if you're feeling like a VIP.

Hours: 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday, 4 p.m. to midnight Tuesday, 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Wednesday-Saturday, closed Sunday.

Zo Lounge in Clearwater is worth the visit, despite unlikely location 09/19/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 19, 2013 9:54am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of …

    Kim Campbell, wife of country music legend Glen Campbell, is acknowledged by those attending the free event where she shared the story of her personal journey with Alzheimer???‚??„?s disease and the struggles she faced caring for her husband on Friday (5/26/17) at the Suncoast Hospice's Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater. Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care hosted the free event where Kim shared her story to help others understand the early stages, how the disease changes lives, the challenges families face and the role of caregiver.
  2. What happened when I took my dad to a Pitbull concert

    Music & Concerts

    TAMPA — "So, you know how you like Pitbull?" I asked my dad. "We can see him."

    Selfie of Divya Kumar and Anand Kumar at Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias concert.
  3. Tampa City Council votes to accept travel invitation from Cuban ambassador

    Blogs

    The invitation came to Tampa City Council chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin in a June 9 letter from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.

    The Tampa City Council voted 6-0, with Frank Reddick out of the room, to respond to a travel invitation from Cuban ambassador to the United States José Ramón Cabañas Rodriguez.
  4. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 25

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Festival: The daytime festival covers Central Avenue's Grand Central District with more than 350 vendors, multiple stages, live music, art and food. 9 a.m., Grand Central District, 2429 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 342-0084.

    Kristen Whalen poses for a photo before the start of the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg last year. It's that time of year again, so check with us for your planning purposes. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times (2016)]
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 24

    Events

    St. Pete Pride Block Party and Night Parade: St. Pete Pride's popular parade moves to downtown St. Petersburg's scenic waterfront. The block party brings DJs, food and drinks starting at 2 p.m. The parade steps off at Fifth Ave NE and Bayshore at 7 p.m. with fireworks at 9:45 p.m. 2 p.m., North Straub Park, Fifth …

    Thousands line the streets of Central Ave. during the St. Pete Pride Parade in St. Petersburg.  [Saturday, June 25, 2016] [Photo Luis Santana | Times]