Emergency measures in the wake of Covid-19:
Governor Ron DeSantis ordered all bars and nightclubs across Florida to close on March 17 for 30 days, and restricted restaurant occupancy to 50 percent so that patrons would be separated by a distance of at least 1.8 metres. Bars that serve food could remain open. On April 18th DeSantis announced that some municipalities could start opening parks and beaches with social distancing.
Outside the cities of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, restaurants and retail spaces could allow customers to enter as of May 4th, at 25% capacity, so long as people followed social distancing guidelines. Gov. Ron DeSantis' June 3 Phase II reopening permitted bars and pubs outside these counties to reopen on June 5th, with diminished standing-room occupancy, and restaurants could offer outdoor seating if tables were 6 feet apart. However, on June 26th an Emergency Order by the DBPR secretary suspended all on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars statewide, in response to the recent surge in Florida COVID-19 cases.
You don't have to look hard to see that the Tampa Bay area has much to offer the gay traveler. From the beautiful sunrises and romantic sunsets to the tropical weather (sometimes with awe-inspiring electrical storms) to the ever-changing nightlife, there is always something new to discover.
The Tampa Bay area is made up of two cities on opposite sides of the bay. On one side is Tampa, which has a long and interesting heritage. Across the bay is its sister city of St Petersburg. Not far away are Clearwater and other cities with visible gay communities. For Saint Pete listings click to that city.
Both Tampa and St Pete have international airports, which makes for easy access to both sides of the bay. in Tampa it's the Tampa International Airport, the larger of the two, and often with less expensive flights. If you plan to drive, you will find easy access to both cities via the interstate highways.
You may be better off driving in the Tampa Bay area. Buses stop running fairly early, making them impractical for those interested in exploring gay nightlife. In downtown Tampa and Ybor City you can take advantage of the trolley rail lines, powered by overhead cables, but make other arrangements for your return trip if planning to stay out past their shut-down times. See HART for area transit schedule and route information. Taxis are usually readily available at all times day or night, but they can get quite costly.
Coast Bikeshare bicycles can be reserved using their mobile app, with a pay-as-you-go, monthly or annual membership. Hundreds of bikes at dozens of hubs in Downtown Tampa, Ybor City, and Hyde Park can be accessed 24/7. Their Prepaid Pay as You Go plan has an $8 hourly rate. Bicycles can also be rented or serviced at City Bike Rental shops, 212 E Cass in downtown Tampa -- open 7 days a week.
Hispanic immigrants have added much to the cultural heritage of Tampa, enriching the city's culinary, music, and architecture scenes. Many of the old cigar factories remain standing, some of them still producing stellar stogies.
Today's traveler will find that Tampa has a vast array of cultural offerings such as the lovingly restored Tampa Theater, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, the Florida Aquarium, and the modern new Tampa Museum of Art.
You will find a large concentration of gays in the South Tampa area, south of Interstate 275 with it's many gay bars, restaurants, galleries, shops and other businesses.
Once a mostly Cuban neighborhood, Ybor City has long been a favorite for gays. In the heart of Ybor City, you can’t miss Centro Ybor, a focal point of area shopping, dining and entertainment. The theaters, and the dozens of restaurants and shops are especially popular after dark, catering to everyone from goth to latin music fans, or country and western aficionados. The the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce at 1800 E 9th Avenue, is a good first stop for information and maps. Just down the street the Ybor Museum State Park, has an ornamental garden, a gift shop and a Museum in an old Italian bakery that tells the history of the city's founding and early years.
Just west of downtown is the University of Tampa, now ensconced in the grand building that was the original Tampa Bay Hotel. It has lovelty architecture and a star-studded history of its own.
Tampa Bay's best beaches
It's nearly impossible to think of Florida without imagining palm-fringed beaches. And many of the best happen to be on the gulf coast. In fact, three in the Tampa Bay area are consistently ranked among the country's top ten.
It's no coincidence that one of the country's most beautiful beaches, Fort DeSoto Park, is located at the entrance of Tampa Bay. It's a stunning destination, made up of five interconnected islands. From many vantage points you have fantastic views of the soaring Sunshine Skyway Bridge. You will also find secluded areas that many find alluring.
How to find the gay spots? Upon entering Fort DeSoto Park, just follow the signs to North Beach. Park in the last lot and cross the "rainbow bridge" and wade across the shallow lagoon. Once at the beach, head to your right until you see the gay folks sunning.
Pass-A-Grille is located south of St Pete Beach. Although only a block wide, this island has a long history within the gay community. Decades ago, Pass-A-Grille was one of the first beaches in the area where gay men and lesbians could feel comfortable. Although long closed now, The Lighted Tree was one of the first gay bars in the area. Pass-A-Grille is still a favorite retreat among gays for the laid-back atmosphere and pristine shoreline.
The area also includes numerous other beaches popular with gays. Sunset Beach, on Treasure Island, is considered by many to be the gay beach. Gays congregate at the south end of the beach. Madeira Beach, with a reputation as being "kinda gay, kinda redneck and kinda touristy" has one of the oldest gay bars in Florida, the Back Room Bar.
Other beaches of interest include Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island, just north of St Petersburg. The two state parks, featuring turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, are undeveloped nature refuges that are almost always rated among the top five in national beach rankings. Caladesi is the more secluded of the two, accessible only via ferry. Honeymoon Island's northern tip is also very remote and quite gay friendly.
Bear Soup Tampa promotes bear brotherhood, with meetings at various area bars, restaurants, theaters and other party places, for 21+ men living in the Tampa area. See upcoming events at their website
The Tampa Bay Times is an area newspaper that includes gay coverage. Creative Loafing, an alternative weekly newspaper, has Tampa news, opinions, restaurant reviews, events, concerts/ show listings, and Visual Arts reviews.
The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce website puts the focus on Tampa’s Latin Quarter, along with the gay businesses here.
For map locations and website links see our gay Tampa listings pages.
You may be surprised to learn that the largest Pride celebration in Florida takes place in St Petersburg. Known as "Pride in Paradise," St Pete throws a party that draws 100,000 participants for the whole Tampa Bay area, at the end of each June. See StPetePride.
The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival offers some of the best new films by and about gays and lesbians from around the world. There are screenings for the full festival over a 9-day period in early October, and a film series that runs throughout the spring and summer months.
Bars and clubs, Tampa
Bear Soup events, since the closing of Body Shop, now take place at various places around town while they look for a new home bar - see their website and facebook pages for details.
Christoph's (2606 North Armenia Ave), leather men's bar/lounge, dance club, drag shows, sexy dancers, Undie Nights, jockstrap contests.
City Side Lounge (3703 Henderson Blvd), one of Tampa's friendliest gay bars, video and sports lounges, heated outdoor patio, dance floor. Fetish Fridays, bingo, drag shows, sports on the tube, karaoke, live performances.
CLOSED: 2606 (2606 North Armenia Ave), men's leather/bear cruise bar; Baxter's Lounge (1519 S Dale Mabry Hwy), men, karaoke, male dancers; Body Shop (14905 N Nebraska Ave, N Tampa), northside bar, darts, karaoke, bingo; District Tea (802 E Whiting St), 18+ Sunday gay tea dance; Ki Ki Ki III (1908 W Kennedy Blvd), old-school gay pick-up bar; Valentine's (7522 N Armenia Ave), nightclub/ showbar.
Bars and clubs, Ybor
In Ybor City (known here as GaYbor!) there are several gay spots to check out.
Bradley's on 7th (1510 East 7th Ave), every night dance club, weekend hot male dancers and drag divas, Thursday night 18+ amateur strip contests.
Crowbar (1812 N 17th St), mixed crowd club open nightly, live music concerts, special events, karaoke Mondays.
Honey Pot (1507 E 7th Ave), Steam Fridays, three floors of dancing, gay/straight men/women mix, male and female dancers, drag shows, porn star guests, performers, plush lounge and great sound and lights.
Reservoir Bar (1518 E 7th Ave), "hole in the wall" neighborhood bar mixes a diverse crowd of locals of every kind.
Southern Nights (1401 E 7th Ave), Wednesday-Sunday gay club, amateur strip contests, go-go dancers, drag shows, Latin Sundays; 18+ nights except on Man Meat Fridays. The former G Bar location.
CLOSED: G Bar (1401 E 7th Ave), amateur strippers and male revues; Hamburger Mary's Tampa (1600 E 7th Ave), gay bar, restaurant and drag cabaret; Liquid Lounge (1811 N 15th St), cocktails/ video lounge, nude porn stars.
In Clearwater Beach, Hamburger Mary's Clearwater (28910 US Hwy 19 N) restaurant and bar also features drag shows and bingo with their cocktails, "appeteasers," burgers, salads, sandwiches/wraps and entrees. The Pro Shop Pub (840 Cleveland St), downtown Clearwater, is a long-time gay locals' karaoke bar.
In Largo, between Clearwater and St Pete, Quench Lounge (13284 66th St, N Largo), gay neighborhood bar features night of go-go boys, drag shows, pool tournaments, trivia games and karaoke.
See our Saint Petersburg article for listings and links to businesses across the bridge, on the southwest side of Tampa Bay.
The Hampton Inn (1301 E 7th Ave; 813-247-6700), a gay-friendly general public hotel, convenient to the local gay scene.
Sawmill Camping Resort (Dade City; 352-583-0664), on the road to Orlando, a gay co-op, campsite, cabins, heated outdoor clothing optional pool, resort with dance club, bars, and food options --open 365 days a year.
See more Tampa hotels at our map & listings pages.
Steam Heat, Tampa
Rainbow Cabaret (4421 N Hubert Ave) men's club, has a sauna, jacuzzi, TV lounges, internet access and patio with an outdoor maze.
Tampa Men's Club (4061 W Crest Ave), 10,000 sq foot, all-male fitness & baths, video maze, hot-tub, steam room, whirlpool, huge gang showers, full gym, lighted secure parking, 145 executive lockers, LCD TV's in all rooms. Twink Tuesdays, Sunday brunch.
CLOSED: The Ybor Resort & Spa (1512 E 8th Ave), all-gay private clothing-optional sauna/ steam club/ resort.
Urban Body (715 S Howard Ave), the area's premier clothing and accessory boutique for men, with all the top desinger labels.