The story's nothing new: rent goes up, beloved local bar shuts down with plans to relocate. The typical outcome is also somewhat standard, unfortunately: the bar either never reopens, or it downgrades to a worse location, struggles for a few months, and ultimately closes.
When Yeoman's Road Pub in Davis Islands decided to pack up and move at the end of last year, they made it clear that their story wouldn't fit the old narrative. Rebrand received top billing over relocate, with a spot in walking distance of downtown Tampa's Amelie Arena chosen for the new digs.
If you've been to the old Yeoman's Road Pub, you'll be shocked by the 4,800-square-foot Yeoman's Cask & Lion (new place, new name). Opened in the late '80s, Yeoman's Road Pub was a small, very lived-in neighborhood pub. Yeoman's Cask & Lion is ultra-modern, sparkling, new, and extraordinarily spacious. The big increase in space comes with a few additional upgrades, like a full kitchen serving a range of pub grub and modern fare, full liquor, and an outdoor patio with its own bar.
But you can't fill a place like this with loyal regulars from the old pub alone: it needs to contribute something worthwhile to the downtown Tampa scene. It needs to stand out, at the very least.
The bright blue and astroturf (not a typo) exterior of Yeoman's Cask & Lion is up to that task, but the interior is even more striking. A full forest's worth of wood — floor-to-ceiling distressed wood slats cover any surface that isn't made of brick, polished stone or sheet metal, and custom light fixtures and hanging Edison bulbs illuminate the scenery, which includes some intriguing works of art.
The art warrants some discussion. First, there are large, comic book-style portraits of British icons—Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, the Queen, Winston Churchill, and Keith Richards — done by local artist Justin Peterson. You might recognize his work as artist for the Tijuana Flats restaurant chain, while I'll recognize his work as recent contributor to MAD magazine.
Then there are some more unexpected pieces, like the edition-of-3 Lion Heart sculpture from British artists Chris Bracey and Christian Furr: it's a chrome-plated lion's head backed by a heart-shaped, neon-lit Union Jack. And there's an old red phone booth that used to belong to Def Leppard's Rick Allen. Not impressed? Check out the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band bass drum, which was used in promotion for the album. The one from the album cover sold for more than $1 million at auction in 2008, so this is as close as you're going to get.
I've focused on the artwork, but don't think Yeoman's Cask & Lion is a gallery. For all the attention paid to Yeoman's appearance, there's a substantial amount paid to the bar. There are 22 drafts — including two cask beers served from a traditional beer engine — and a concise bottle list with a few British favorites, like a range of beers from Samuel Smith, the 18th century Yorkshire brewery. There's a small wine list, ranging from budget-friendly "Roar Pours" (house wines) to full-on Champagne.
Unlike the old pub, Yeoman's Cask & Lion serves liquor. A full cocktail list is forthcoming, but I've sneaked a peek at it and it looks really good. There's a nice mix of classics where guests can choose from several base spirits, some new creations with British music themes, and half a dozen variations on the Moscow Mule. I'm sure the final list will look a little different, but it's off to a damn good start.
Of course, there's a wide range of premium spirits as well, including lots of gin. One bottle stands out, as it comes in an antique-style bottle, housed in a glass case. It's Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin, a gin with a very interesting backstory that ranges from England to Germany's Black Forest. If you're a gin drinker, I recommend looking into it!
A lot of money has been put into this flashy downtown pub, but that's nothing particularly special in this part of town. It's the detail that counts, from the eclectic artwork and memorabilia to the bold interior design and solid bar selection.
I'm sure Davis Islands folks will miss the old Yeoman's Road Pub plenty, but Yeoman's Cask & Lion is a real rebrand/relocate success — one that will bring in new regulars to join the old ones who make the trek to the new location.
— firstname.lastname@example.org; @WordsWithJG.