Tampa condo tower to Park & Rec: Yes, you are a nightclub

The Towers of Channelside condo association has filed a lawsuit against the bar, as residents complain about noise.
A beer is pictured in the outdoor games area of Park & Rec on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 in St. Petersburg.
A beer is pictured in the outdoor games area of Park & Rec on Wednesday, May 22, 2019 in St. Petersburg. [ LUIS SANTANA | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Jan. 17, 2020|Updated Jan. 17, 2020

TAMPA — The trouble between the Towers of Channelside’s condo association and hot spot Park & Rec began to bubble months before the bar opened.

The bar is on the lowest level of the complex’s second 30-story tower at 290 S Meridian Ave., where unit prices range between six figures and more than $1 million.

There has been an ongoing legal battle over whether the bar had a right to alter an outdoor deck with lights, sound systems and plumbing. But the attorney for the condo association says residents are dealing with a bigger issue.

Park & Rec says it’s a bar and restaurant. Residents disagree. They say they’re living above a night club — and a loud one at that.

“It’s a commercial space intended for commercial use,” said Eric Appleton, the association’s attorney. "There’s no doubt about that. But this is a bona fide nightclub that doesn’t belong in that current space.”

Park & Rec was so popular in downtown St. Petersburg, the Hunger + Thirst Restaurant Group and CEO Stephen Schrutt decided to replicate its success across the bay. So far, the second bar has been a hit. Some nights, workers there even collect a cover charge before letting people inside.

“We aren’t a night club,” Schrutt wrote in a text message to a Tampa Bay Times reporter. “We’re a social gaming bar (and) restaurant."

In a written statement, Schrutt said he and his team tried to work out the ongoing issues with the condo association, but the association wouldn’t cooperate. The association says the same about Park & Rec.

The St. Pete location has had its own problems with noise complaints from nearby residents. With the volume growing alongside St. Pete’s nightlife, the city decided to toughen its noise ordinance with harsher penalties in May 2019

Schrutt told the Times then that he didn’t want to anger neighbors, who were also his customers. Be he also said it’s a downtown’s vibrant energy that attracts growth and development.

The deck outside the Park & Rec in Tampa is covered in grassy turf with lawn games like a giant Connect 4 and a trash can setup as a giant beer pong game. It includes an outdoor bar that serves alcoholic juice pouches and cocktails such as “Dirty Pop” and “Ice, Ice Baby.”

Patrons are welcomed by a mural that says “Youth has no age,” and are encouraged to use the hashtag on social media #getrecd. After 8 p.m., both locations become 21-and-over only.

The result, according to those who live above, has been noise and music along with flashing purple lights until the early morning. Further, the association says, strobe lights and outdoor speakers were installed without their permission, which it says the lease requires. The deck that the bar overhauled, is supposed to be a common space, according to the association.

Its attorney sent a cease and desist letter about the outdoor renovations to Park & Rec in August — two months before the bar opened. The lawsuit was filed on Jan. 10.

Related: Hey, you got St. Pete in my Tampa. No, you got Tampa in my St. Pete.

“We requested to work out different arrangements,” Schrutt said in the statement. “We are saddened that the Association has felt the need to file litigation at the expense of its owners when their concerns described could have easily been worked out without the need of costly litigation.”

Appleton said his clients have reached their limit. They’ve begun documenting when the bar stores equipment or ropes off an exit in areas that are supposed to be shared.

Appleton said his clients have also encountered people throwing up, likely from drinking too much, when trying to get to their homes.

“They didn’t sign up for this,” he said.