After more than three decades of serving leisurely lunches, cozy dinners and wine and cocktails, the Wine Exchange is closing its doors at Tampa’s Hyde Park Village. And not because they want to.
“They have plans for this location and the plans, what they’re communicating to us, is that it’s retail,” Wine Exchange general manager Elisa McGuire said Tuesday.
“I just don’t get it,” she said. “We’re like a staple in the neighborhood.”
Mark Smith, who owns the restaurant along with partner Rick Drummond, said in a news release that Hyde Park Village’s owners decided not to renew their lease.
“It’s hard to imagine not being in our Hyde Park Village home,” Smith said, “especially because we are the oldest business in the village and business has never been better.”
Alexandra Clark, vice president of Asset Strategy and Experience with Hyde Park’s owner and manager WS Development, said in an emailed response to the Tampa Bay Times: “Part of what makes Hyde Park Village so special is that it is ever evolving and we’re excited to bring forth the next chapter of what the community has been asking of us.”
She declined to say what would replace the Wine Exchange, but said they “look forward to sharing more in the months to come.”
The Wine Exchange Bistro & Wine Bar originally opened in Hyde Park Village on Swann Avenue 32 years ago in space now occupied by an Irish pub — part of the sprawling shopping mecca that’s tucked into a historic neighborhood of shady oaks and restored bungalows.
The restaurant later moved to its prime location on Snow Avenue, the village’s main drag that’s often busy with foot traffic. It has an extensive wine and cocktail menu, including Guavatinis and blueberry margaritas, and the grape pecan chicken salad and chimichurri flank steak are local favorites. The restaurant’s covered back patio has been a popular spot.
“The Wine Exchange has been one of my go-tos for longer than I’d like to admit,” said Hyde Park resident Ann Altman. “I’m going to miss it dearly.”
The Wine Exchange survived some of the leaner years when high-end International Plaza opened across town and stole some of Hyde Park’s thunder. The restaurant kept going even as department store Jacobson’s and other tenants closed and a new owner came and went.
Boston-based WS Development bought the village for $45 million in 2013 and gave the mixed-use outdoor venue a remake that included widening sidewalks for better walkability. In recent years, including the height of the pandemic, Hyde Park has stayed well occupied.
Over Christmas, national chain Vineyard Vines closed — neither the company nor WS would say why — as did Ella Bing Haberdashery, a local family-owned men’s store. The owner cited several factors, including Hyde Park declining to extend their lease.
Asked if the village is moving away from local tenants, Clark said via email that 24 current occupants are “locally owned small businesses.”
Not that Hyde Park has much in the way of empty storefronts. Just opened or soon to open: Barry’s fitness studio, Gorjana jewelry store, Bouzy champagne and cocktail bar, The Salty artisanal doughnut shop, and Sweetgreen casual dining. Palihouse boutique hotel is scheduled to debut later this year.
Wine exchange owner Smith said their lease expires March 31. “We are making every effort to keep our extraordinary staff together and find a new location in South Tampa to continue the legacy of the Wine Exchange,” he said. He thanked loyal customers, employees and friends.
“It was always good food, good wine, pleasant atmosphere around the back on the patio,” said Hyde Park resident Shelley Reback. “I’m sad that they’re leaving.”
McGuire echoed that: “We love it here.”