Because the linoleum could use another layer worn off.
There’s a special spot in the dive bar hall of fame (career goals) for the holdouts, the time-tested, well-worn, well-loved bars that refuse to give up their plot of land as gentrification encroaches. Of the Tampa dive bars reviewed here, Tiny Tap Tavern is a clear standout even before considering the stubbornness it takes to carry on in the face of a circling, remarkably similar-looking condos or townhomes or whatever nearby.
To add to the lore of the building, the space opened in 1934 as the office of a gas station before transitioning into selling beer and wine in 1951. Family-owned from 1975 to a slightly panic-inducing sale in 2019, the space has clearly changed little over the years, making it as easy to envision gas pumps out front as it is to envision getting drunk sitting along the tiny bar inside. Regulars purchased the bar in 2019 not for the land but to keep the tradition alive, which has happily remained the case.
And it is those gas station roots that shed light on the location and orientation of the building, sitting at a kind of crossroads just under an expressway running through south Tampa. The building suits its name, a low building with a low ceiling in and just of an actual bar, a small u-shaped ring that covers one corner of the space.
Though this reviewer is no flooring expert, I’m going to say it’s some kind of linoleum-like surface that serves as the flooring to the space that may not be original, but also may not be far off. The discolored areas of the floor match the likely footpaths through the building – a ring around the seating, another ring around the pool tables – a testament to the dive bar’s longevity. Even the sign that proclaims that “The Tiny Tap Now Has Wi-Fi” looks yellowed and rustic.
The rest of the space houses dive bar staples in low seating, a pool table, a foosball table, darts, jukebox, etc. And thankfully for the cash only bar, an ATM is available, which is no given in a cash only dive like this one and much appreciated. A set of refrigerators butt up against what looks to be an ancient HVAC system that has likely been heavily taxed by the Florida heat across season after season over the history of Tiny Tap Tavern.
The signage throughout the building hints at its past, framed portraits of family friends, aging bumper stickers (“Good girls go to heaven! Bad girls go everywhere!”) and fading Tampa Bay Buccaneers posters that were clearly bought before it was fashionable to love the team. Where the worn linoleum floor ends, the wood paneling begins, spanning the bar and walls, giving way to the drop ceiling above. If the picture isn’t clear yet, the dive bar aesthetic is, in a word, perfect.
Though I didn’t have the pleasure of visiting the women’s bathroom this trip, the original owners had the good foresight to at least keep the door to it accessible from inside the bar, a trait not repeated for the exterior-access men’s bathroom featuring some aggressive graffiti work. I don’t know what “Titty Bats” means, but I’m quite interested to find out.
Outside, simple seating was, on our trip, reserved for neighborhood locals and those working the bar that day, adding to the casual, family-like, open vibe to the space supported by open doors and good weather. Our bartender told us a story about the waves of post-Super Bowl crowds passing through the dive bar, which might have looked something like the ocean consuming an ancient, wooden rowboat. No word on if the crock pot hot dogs available to us during our visit were offered to the throngs celebrating their Tom Brady-fueled win.
Tiny Tap Tavern cannot be recommended more highly, a combination of the elements that make a dive bar truly stand out, from the dug-in location to the clearly authentic architecture to the building’s roots as a gas station opened almost 90 years ago. If that story doesn’t grab you, the beer was cheap, the vibe was good, the bartender engaging and the space enthralling. And hey, they now have wi-fi.