Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Hillsborough

The Hub, downtown Tampa’s beloved dive bar, turns 70 — maybe

Patrons’ memories of the bar, and a definitive history, remain elusive.
Patrons are silhouetted against the entrance to The Hub. The iconic Tampa bar is celebrating its 70th year. [CHRIS URSO | Times] [CHRIS URSO | Times]
Published Aug. 27
Updated Aug. 29

It’s difficult to find people who can share memories of The Hub.

The Tampa Bay Times sought reader recollections but received just a few.

That’s not because the watering hole lacks patrons.

Located at 719 N Franklin St., The Hub has long been a beloved downtown Tampa dive bar known for nicotine-stained walls covered in graffiti.

That popularity was reflected in the dozens of responses to the Times’ request. Yet, rather than providing memories, most shared the same joke.

“Let me guess,” laughed The Hub’s co-owner Charles Fox. “No one can remember what they did here. Yeah, we are known for our strong drinks.”

The bar’s age is as hazy as its patrons’ memories after a long night.

Plenty of cocktails are expected to flow when The Hub celebrates its 70th birthday this weekend with live music and drink specials.

Except maybe it’s not the bar’s 70th birthday, admitted the owners, who purchased the Hub in 2008 from the Deyoria family.

“We are not positive," co-owner Ferrell “Skooter” Melton said.

Added Fox, “We’ve heard maybe it was opened in 1933 at a third location."

So, the Times looked into it.

The Hub's co-owners Ferrell Melton, 62, left, and Charles Fox, 51. The iconic Tampa bar is celebrating its 70th year. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

The city directory in 1933 reports a Hub Hotel at 212 1/2 Franklin Street in downtown Tampa, but it makes no mention of a bar at the establishment. One year later, The Hub Travel Agency appears in the city directory at that same address.

The Hub Saloon is listed in 1935 at 801 Tampa St. downtown, and it remains there through 1943. It was originally owned by C.E. Chesire, according to city directories, then William Confoy and finally Matthew Roscile.

The 1947 city directory includes a bar named The Hub at 904 1/2 E. Broadway Ave., at the edge of downtown and Ybor City. It was owned by Phillip and Rose Albano.

Still, because it’s unclear if those bars are related to today’s, the current owners said, they stick with the known history.

Their bar was founded in 1949 by Pio Guerra Jr. at 901 N. Florida Ave., where he initially operated Elite Cigar Store.

In 1956, Guerra sold to Pasquale Deyoria, whose creed, according to his grandson Mike Mixon, was “make a stiff drink at a reasonable price and people will come.”

That, Mixon added, is still the reason for The Hub’s popularity.

The 1950s was a vibrant time for downtown Tampa. It boasted a thriving shopping district and a number of hotels.

The Hub was right in the middle of the action with a clientele that included a who’s who of judges, attorneys, bankers, professional athletes and mafiosos, all dressed in their finest evening wear.

The regular musician throughout that decade, according to newspaper ads, was “Klink Lemmon, pianist sensation.”

As downtown shifted from swank to quaint in the 1980s, The Hub transitioned into an “everyman bar,” said current co-owner Melton, who started working there 30 years ago.

Former owner Deyoria’s grandson Mixon said they “went after the University of Tampa crowd” who “labelled it a dive bar.”

Graffiti was sketched on walls and the piano was replaced by a jukebox.

Drinks were still held in well-manicured hands but clinked glasses in dirt-stained grips. The peaceful mix between blue and white collars remains a calling card.

In 2002, when The Hub’s landlord, First Presbyterian Church, decided to turn the building into a parking lot, the bar moved a few blocks over to Franklin Street.

A patron walks into The Hub located at 719 N Franklin Street. The iconic Tampa bar is celebrating its 70th year. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

But the old building has not yet been demolished, and The Hub’s name remains etched in the front window.

The new, larger location provided space for bands to perform.

Making the move from the old to the new spot was the horseshoe-shaped bar and a block of graffiti-covered wood panel.

“The only devil is the one inside of you,” reads a passage on the panel that hangs near the bar.

Graffiti from the original The Hub is seen on the walls of it's current location at 719 N Franklin Street. The iconic Tampa bar is celebrating its 70th year. [CHRIS URSO | Times]

Pointing out that newer scribblings are mostly random curse words, current co-owner Fox quipped, "The graffiti was much more prolific back then, but we allow it. It’s who we are. Sometimes I paint the bathroom wall white and say, ‘Here is a brand-new canvas.’”

It’s the embrace of the dive bar image, the current owners said, that has allowed The Hub to outlast other establishments and remain a popular spot as downtown has emerged this decade as a hip place with upscale lounges.

“Dive bar is not an offensive word,” Fox said. “To me it means no BS and good conversation.”

And while The Hub might be Tampa’s oldest bar of any kind, Fox is not ready to embrace that as fact.

“I would go with one of the oldest,” he said.

Nor does it matter.

Ultimately, it’s not the age that keeps regulars coming back, co-owner Melton said. “You go to the restaurants that have the best food. You go to the bar that has the best drinks.”


ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Port Tampa Bay president and CEO Paul Anderson. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times (2017)]
    Port commissioners approved the raise after a year with milestone achievements on several fronts.
  2. In December 2017, two masked motorcycle gang members were accused of assassinating Paul Anderson, 44,  president of the Cross Bayou chapter of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club while his pickup was stopped at a traffic light in Pasco County. [Pasco County Sheriffs Office]
    Evidence from the federal trial of two members of the 69′ers Motorcycle Club offers a rare glimpse of the world of outlaw biker gangs.
  3. David Straz and his wife Catherine at Karamu, the annual black-tie gala at ZooTampa in April. AMY SCHERZER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The future of Straz’s foundation remained unclear Tuesday. Meanwhile, police say Straz died of natural causes at a Citrus County waterfront home.
  4. David Straz Jr. passed away this week at age 77. JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The retired banker supported causes from the arts to the zoo. Here’s a sampling of reaction to his death.
  5. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    The driver’s injuries appear non-life threatening, and a suspect is in custody.
  6. The family of Bonnie Lee Dages prays before a news conference at the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Ybor City on Nov. 19, 2019. Dages, inset, with her son Jeremy, was 18 and living in Lithia when she and Jeremy disappeared in April 1993. The family is asking the public for help to solve the mystery. TONY MARRERO  |  Tony Marrero; handout
    Bonnie Lee Dages was last seen leaving her Lithia home with four-month-old son Jeremy in April 1993.
  7. Mango Plaza in Seffner has sold for $12.49 million. The plaza is anchored by a Publix and Walmart, making it attractive to a Baltimore investment firm. (Continental Realty Corporation)
    Mango Plaza’s new owners are based out of Baltimore.
  8. A small dog was rescued from a fire Tuesday morning at the Palms at Ashley Oaks Apartments in the 1700 block of East 131st Ave. in Tampa. Hillsborough County Fire Rescue
    Management says it will find new apartments for those who lost their residences in the fire.
  9. Jose Vasquez, Jr., 22, of Tampa was charged with manslaughter on Monday after a man he fought outside the Brandon Crossroads bowling alley on Nov. 10, 2019 died from his injuries, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office
    The man Jose Vasquez, Jr. fought outside of Brandon Crossroads hit his head twice on the pavement and died on Saturday, deputies said.
  10. Earlier today• Hillsborough
    Beau, Vivi, Peter and Meredith are available for adoption at Tampa Bay area shelters. Times
    Tampa Bay area shelter pets
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement