There’s not a lot to say about your average Largo strip-mall dive.
There are dozens, each with a neighborhood clientele, plentiful cheap drinks, a pool table and cigarette smoke lingering in the air. If you’re willing to do the work, you’ll find a few standouts.
The Liquid Therapy Bar is one, despite looking like any other dive on a superficial level.
It’s off East Bay and Belcher, with a blackout window wrap out front advertising “free WiFi & pool.” Inside, there’s a big, U-shaped bar flanked with café tables and an assortment of TVs. There’s a pool room to one side with a pair of pool tables and a small corner stage and dance floor on the opposite side. There are lots of games besides pool: foosball, darts, video bowling and even a claw game.
It’s a place where bartenders stick around to drink and play pool after their shift ends, and the regulars and staff all seem to know one another well. It’s an instantly familiar environment to anyone who’s spent any time drinking $2 cocktails in a neighborhood with limited nightlife options.
However, the Liquid Therapy Bar is different.
It was once a popular locals hangout known as Dee’s Den, reopening under a new name and management. You can tell when owners and staff take pride in their bar, and this one is well-maintained and spotlessly clean outside of the dense smoke — a true rarity in the genre. Plus, the staff is as welcoming and attentive as you’ll find anywhere, there’s a stacked weekly events calendar and, yes, the drinks are as strong as they are cheap. This is not a dive running on autopilot.
The drink selection is not particularly wild, but it’s entirely workable. There are eight beers on draft, with Goose Island IPA the most adventurous selection. Splits of 19 Crimes wine are available as a cheap upgrade from the house variety. With none of these selections priced over $4 (and most in the $3 range), there’s not much to complain about.
The spirit selection covers most of the bases, with a few unusual picks in the bunch, like Blackened, a tasty brandy barrel-aged whiskey made in collaboration between master distiller Dave Pickerell (Maker’s Mark, Whistle Pig) and Metallica.
There are four house drinks: two shots and two sipping cocktails. For shots, you’ve got the Molly Bomb (“sweet & tart”) and the Therapy Shot (“5 different liquors”) — you’ve got to love the difference in approach on those descriptions. Then there’s the Liquid Slide (“our take on the mud slide”) and Amber’s Island (“tropical cocktail”), which is named after general manager and bartender Amber Whitaker. I tried Amber’s Island — vodka, pineapple, cranberry and simple syrup with a cherry on top — and it was a nice change of pace from the usual beer and whiskey.
Beyond that, you’ll find chilled Fireball and Jägermeister shots, as well as a lineup of frozen cocktails, including a rum runner, a margarita and a strawberry daiquiri. It’s all incredibly cheap, of course — even the specialty drinks are only $5.
Liquid Therapy’s tagline bills it as a neighborhood bar with a big city attitude, and that’s representative of what’s going on there. It’s a modest bar aiming high, and while it’s built on the same foundation as any other dive in town, it has set itself apart from the pack through attention to detail and a clear sense of pride in the business, giving those from outside the neighborhood a good reason to visit.
— Justin Grant is a tbt* correspondent. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @WordsWithJG.
The Liquid Therapy Bar
1385 S Belcher Road, Largo. (727) 474-3514; theliquidtherapybar.com
The vibe: A bustling neighborhood dive with a stacked events lineup.
Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $2-$3; wine, $3.50-$4; liquor, $2-$7.
Specialty: Check out the frozen cocktails if you’re in the mood for something fruity — current varieties include margarita, rum runner and strawberry daiquiri — or check out the house cocktail menu, which features two shots and two drinks, depending on how quickly you intend to get your night started. Amber’s Island is a nice, tropical drink: vodka, pineapple, cranberry and simple syrup.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Sunday.