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  1. Bars & Breweries

The Broken Tusk: Strong drinks, LGBT-friendly atmosphere

The Broken Tusk spruced up from its biker-bar past but still retains a dive charm.
The Broken Tusk spruced up from its biker-bar past but still retains a dive charm.
Published Jun. 27, 2013

Now in its 11th year, the St. Pete Pride festival has become one of the city's major celebrations, with this year's attendance estimates approaching 100,000. The Promenade and Street Festival are Saturday, featuring a parade, vendors, musicians, artists, and other activities throughout the Grand Central district, but LGBT-friendly bars all around town will also be hosting events.

The Broken Tusk, which touts itself as "St. Pete's newest gay bar," is one of these. In a symbolic transition between its predecessor — MacDaddy's, a rough-and-tumble biker bar — and its current state, the Broken Tusk held its official "coming out" party last Friday. Although the Broken Tusk identifies as a gay bar, it's just as much of a no-frills neighborhood dive as MacDaddy's was, albeit with rainbows on the booze ads in place of Nascar photos.

Part of the classic dive atmosphere is undoubtedly due to the bar's location, situated on a gritty stretch of 28th Street, near an unincorporated area of Pinellas County. You're not going to find a lot of high-end cocktail joints or swanky nightclubs around here. The rest is a result of its proprietors' heritage; owners Judah and Levi Love were longtime bartenders at St. Pete's quintessential dive bar, the Emerald, before opening the Broken Tusk last in October.

The Broken Tusk is relatively large inside, with a rectangular bar in the center accessible from all sides. On one end is a small stage and dance floor, as well as a dart room. On the other end are two pool tables, a Fish Tales pinball machine, and even one of those coin games that you feed quarters, hoping that the row of coins resting on the ledge will slide over the edge and into your pocket.

A large, 1000-square-foot outdoor patio is a new addition — at least I never noticed it during MacDaddy's tenure — featuring lots of open air, umbrella-covered café seating, as well as its tiki bar, currently in use only for special events. The Loves hope to eventually add a rooftop bar in the patio.

Though some of the familiar elements of the Emerald are in play here — namely, strong, cheap drinks — the Broken Tusk has a lot more going on in the way of regular activities. On any given week, visitors can expect to run into drag shows, DJs, live music, pool tournaments and even bingo nights.

Since the location doesn't see much foot traffic, it's important to keep the calendar full. The Broken Tusk is clearly on top of that, but there are also quite a few impressive drink specials to lure in visitors in between events. The happy hour, for example, runs for a startling 10 hours on weekdays, and during the Saturday night "Power Hour" (10 to 11 p.m.), everything behind the bar goes for only $3. That's better than half off for some of the higher-end spirits.

A good dive bar also has a certain requisite level of grime built-in. The Broken Tusk inherited just the right amount of this from MacDaddy's, giving it the warmth of an already broken-in bar while still sprucing it up enough to be comfortable. For example, the new floors look great, the pool tables are in good condition, and the sound system is just right.

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St. Pete Pride is all about celebrating diversity and inclusion, and the Broken Tusk fits in nicely with that ideology. A night out at the local dive is something that many of us enjoy, regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and at the Broken Tusk, all are equally welcome.

— jg@saintbeat.com

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