UT vs. The Retreat: Business Feels Bullied

The University of Tampa recently challenged the liquor license of The Retreat, a local bar and close neighbor of the school.

The dispute revolved around wet-zoning authority that was eventually approved by the city’s variance review board last December. However, there is yet another court date this March due to an appeal by university attorneys.

The bar won the last session with a 6-1 vote, but UT is appealing the decision.
Branden Logue, the general manager of the Retreat, explained that the university claimed the bar was in violation of serving beer, wine and liquor due to the history of the land use over the years.

The Retreat, which falls under the same ownership as the local Green Iguana chains, had more than enough evidence to prove that the venue has always distributed alcohol, the zoning board ruled.

‘One thing I know is that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent by UT on this case,’ said Logue. ‘Their points were moot and argument tacky.’

Logue also said that given UT’s background of excessive alcohol related violations with students on campus, it was almost hypocritical for them to attack his bar on related grounds.

The Retreat caters to young professionals from the downtown area, and Logue mentioned that less than one-third of their customers are students from the university.
Besides that, the Retreat has never been raided nor any patrons arrested for any charge related to fake identifications or underage drinking.

‘We’re professional and we’ve invested thousands of dollars to help increase the image of our immediate neighborhood,’ he said.

The Retreat is not alone. With the city’s plans to increase social activities downtown with ideas like the ‘river walk,’ the neighborhood around UT will only continue to grow with similar business.

Hyde Park Avenue, which also includes the popular restaurant Caf’eacute; European and many other small businesses, would be the perfect place for UT to expand with a much needed parking lot, Logue said.

If UT were successful in their fight against The Retreat, a ‘big dog’ on the street, they won’t have much trouble bullying the other businesses right out of their way, Logue added.

He also feels this is the underlying incentive to the stubbornness of the university, though Dean of Students Bob Ruday declined to comment on the issue without first speaking to the school’s attorney.

Liz Harrington can be reached at swim0688@gmail.com

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