1. Arts & Entertainment

Seminole Heights' new Mermaid Tavern a repository of retro cool

Published Jan. 19, 2012

Although the designations "bar," "pub," and "tavern" are mostly synonymous, the latter two tend to imply a social element that is not necessarily found at just any bar. When I see "tavern" in a name, I envision a meeting place where friends get together.

Perhaps that was the concept behind the Mermaid Tavern, a new Seminole Heights beer and wine bar that shares a name with a famous Elizabethan-era tavern purportedly frequented by Sir Walter Raleigh and William Shakespeare in early 17th century London. The Mermaid was a regular meeting place where regular intellectual debates and conversations took place, with many alcoholic beverages consumed in the process.

Or maybe the idea was to give a nod to the Florida of the '50s and '60s, when nautical-themed bars were all the rage. Certainly the juxtaposition of that era's tiki bars and nautical imagery is a combination of themes that goes largely unexplored nowadays.

I would be willing to bet that neither of these references went unnoticed by the owners of Tampa's Mermaid Tavern, a small, vaguely nautically themed bar that seems set up as a destination for interaction, rather than drinking.

I say this because that's the way it's laid out. There's a bar in the corner, decorated with abalone, shells and the skeletons of starfish set beneath its lacquered surface. The rest of the space is wide open, with round tables and barrel chairs, an outdoor patio with benches and café tables, and a peculiar, pitch-black room with bench seating. This is the kind of place that lends itself to group activity.

The interior is also pleasantly laid back most of the time, in part because smoking is only allowed outside on the patio. This disperses the crowd a bit, lessening congestion inside the bar — in more ways than one.

Between the dark, polished wood and thick rope accents (!), the bar seems like it's situated inside the hull of a ship, rather than off of a stretch of Nebraska Avenue. It has a retro feel, illustrated by the throwback lettering in the bar's logo. Although it may appear to have been built 40 years ago, the Mermaid Tavern has been around for only a few months.

But in Seminole Heights, word travels fast, and the Mermaid is practically an institution by now, a welcome addition to the area's repertoire of quality drinking and dining establishments, such as the Independent, Ella's and the Refinery. The Mermaid Tavern boasts a wide selection of world-class beers, many of which are brewed locally. In all, there are some 20 beers on tap and another 30 or so in the bottle at any given time.

Wines also are in the spotlight, with a selection ranging into port and dessert wines, Champagnes and even sake. The selection for both wine and beer changes on a regular basis.

Aside from good conversation, entertainment at the Mermaid comes in the form of gritty '60s and '70s films projected on a screen in the back, classic board games, and DJs and live musicians performing several nights a week, including a "bring-your-own-vinyl" night on Wednesdays.

From the kitsch of yesteryear to the high-end beer selections of today, the Mermaid Tavern provides a unique and fun place to meet friends for a few beers or wines. Where the conversation goes from there is up to you.



  1. Four-time Latin Grammy winner Alex Cuba will play the Jaeb Theater at Tampa's Straz Center on June 5.
  2. Danielle Wade, Megan Masako Haley, Mariah Rose Faith and Jonalyn Saxer in the nationally touring company of the musical "Mean Girls." The role of Regina George was played by English Bernhardt, not Faith, for the Feb. 18 performance.
  3. This undated image provided by Olay shows, from left, retired astronaut Nicole Stott, Lilly Singh and Busy Philipps in a scene from the company's 2020 Super Bowl NFL football spot.  (Olay via AP)
  4. Yesterday• Visual Arts
    Graciela Iturbide's 1986 photograph, "Fiesta de las Velas, Juchitan,Oaxaca," is on display in the Tampa Museum of Art's "Modern Women: Modern Vision" exhibition, opening Feb. 20, 2020.
  5. "Brahms: The Boy II" stars Katie Holmes.
  6. Marc Maron, show here during his Netflix special "Marc Maron: Too Real," will perform at the Straz Center in Tampa on Feb. 15, 2020.
  7. In this Sept. 15, 2004 file photo, recording artist Whitney Houston performs at the 2004 World Music Awards at the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas. Houston is about to appear on the concert stage again. Eight years after her death, five years after the show was conceived and a year after production began, a holographic Houston will embark on a European tour starting Feb. 25, with U.S. dates expected to follow. The singer's sister-in-law and former manager Pat Houston says it's the right time for a revival, and says it's a show Whitney Houston would've wanted. The concerts will feature a projected Houston performing most of her biggest hits, including “I Will Always Love You," with real backup dancers and a live band. (AP Photo/Eric Jamison, file)
  8. Twitter user Ashley Bower asked what movies traumatized people as children, prompting a deluge of responses and a spattering of old movies to trend on Twitter on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020.
  9. The Shamrock Shake returns to stores nationwide today for the first time since 2017 as McDonald’s celebrates the 50th anniversary of the mint-flavored treat.
  10. Rare Schwinn bicycles will be among the collection of vintage bikes at Burchard Galleries' auction in St. Petersburg on Feb. 23.
  11. Expect to see lots of traditional Mardi Gras masks like this during the annual Mardi Gras parade in downtown Dunedin on Feb. 22.
  12. After nearly four decades of operating a restaurant on Fourth Avenue in Ybor City, Cephas Gilbert has a new location. He now runs a juice hut inside Tequilas Ybor in Tampa.