TAMPA — Clearwater Beach and St. Pete Beach's water-front vistas always attract locals and tourists seeking good food and good drinks.
Now Tampa businesses aim to cultivate a stronger waterfront bar presence.
The Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel invested millions in renovating its hotel and pool deck amenities, and will reveal its new Sheraton Pool Bar from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday.
Hotel guests and locals exploring the Riverwalk will enjoy live music, food and drinks such as wine, liquor and domestic beer with half-priced food and free bloody marys and mimosas for the first hour.
The poolside menu features sandwiches, salads and small plates such as the lobster mac-n-cheese, the calamari or the crabcake appetizer from award-winning executive chef Charles Coe. Coe also will introduce specialty drinks.
"Opening Sheraton Pool Bar has given us an opportunity to be creative with new drinks for guests and locals alike," he said in a prepared statement.
"This includes making differently flavored ice cubes, with ingredients like mint, that we grow in-house, which adds a special touch to the menu."
And the best part—open container privilege.
Guests can order a drink from the pool bar and take it anywhere while exploring the Riverwalk or the hotel.
The Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel is one of only two of the area's hotels that allows this privilege and has direct access to the Riverwalk. Joining them is the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel, which also has plans to enhance waterfront dining.
The Marriott's $40 million dollar renovation plan includes a new Starbucks in the pool and deck area, and a new gastropub restaurant featuring local craft beers, two Topgolf practice bays, and new patio seating in the space previously occupied by Champions Sports Bar.
City officials have long sought to create more dining and drinking options along the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay. American Social Club has added to the mix at Harbor Island, which has long featured Jacksons. The Tampa Convention Center's Sail Pavilion has grown in popularity, and Water Street Tampa's new Sparkman Wharf plans to take full advantage of the watery vistas near Port Tampa Bay.
The $3 billion project will takeover the underperforming Channelside Bay Plaza shopping center including about 180,000 square feet of office lofts, 65,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, plus a 1-acre outdoor space with a lawn, outdoor dining and beer garden.
Developers promise a focus on well-known local chefs and entrepreneurs who will experiment with menus and street-food concepts not found anywhere else in the area. They will house each concept in a repurposed shipping container, with murals paying tribute to natural Florida and painted by Pep Rally studios of Tampa.
"Not only has our downtown become a destination for residents but it's attracting national and international acclaim," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "The increasing presence of restaurants, bars, and social hangouts on the Riverwalk is a testament to Tampa's ongoing renaissance."
With the Riverwalk enjoying a 117 percent increase from 2013 to 2018, it's clear the area needs more dining options to accomodate the growing number of users.
Kelsy Van Camp, Tampa Downtown Partnership's marketing director, says it's all about the experience now, so waterfront dining is crucial for Tampa's future development.
"We're such an 'Instagramable' society now where people want that picture by the water with the sun going down" she said.
"So long we've been a transient city, but now we're really starting to embrace our waterfront in general and what we have to offer. We're finally starting to look back at our history and what that brings to our future."
Contact Monique Welch at email@example.com.