Hotspots Exclusive Interview with Richard Barba by Mike Halterman
Liquid Tampa (1502 E. 7th Ave.) has been a very popular venue for LGBT people ever since it opened three and a half years ago. Since it opened, it has received a positive reputation for its Friday night Latin parties, featuring Latin music and a special Latin drag show hosted by Lady Janet, and for their Saturday night parties, which frequently star RuPaul’s Drag Race performers from across the country. If you’re looking for more than just a night out, but an all-out extravaganza, Liquid Tampa is definitely a fun place to visit.
Richard Barba loved the energy and fun that Liquid exudes, so much so that two months ago, he became the new owner. His goal is to keep the fun atmosphere that people already love about Liquid while making the experience even better each night for current customers and new ones.
I spoke with Richard about Liquid, what he loves about the bar, and what changes will be forthcoming in this exclusive Hotspots interview.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m originally from New York and I’ve lived in Florida for 15 years. I’m an entrepreneur at heart, and I really wanted to become involved in the bar and club environment here. When the opportunity presented itself, I quit my full-time job at Verizon as a financial manager to be hands-on at Liquid all the time.
What drew you to Liquid over any other bar in Tampa?
I looked at a lot of opportunities in the area. I know that Ybor and the area around it have both had high points and low points. Now that the crime rate is going down in Ybor, and the Vinik plan is going to re-energize Channelside, I think it’s a good time to invest in this area. The previous owners of Liquid have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the business and have positioned it for greatness. I hope to take it to the next level.
How do you plan to take Liquid to the next level?
My goal is to turn Liquid into the premier entertainment venue and nightclub in Tampa. We want to pass on good value to our patrons and we want to offer stellar and varied types of entertainment for people to enjoy each week. Drag has always had its place at Liquid Tampa, and it will continue to be there, but we want to ensure crowds are entertained by so many different entertainment acts. Music is important too; it’s been on-point so far, and from here on out, our goal is to offer even better club experiences for our guests.
Are there going to be any changes to the current theme nights offered each week?
We’ve reviewed all that Liquid has done in the past and from there we decided to tweak the things that are working and figure out how to fix the things that weren’t. One thing I’m really proud of is getting 93.3 FLZ to broadcast live from Liquid every Thursday night. Thursdays had been formatted as a college night, but there wasn’t really much of an engagement from a college perspective. So we are shifting that college night format to Wednesday night, and we’re going out to the colleges to engage students to come out.
We’re also opening up Mondays, moving our opening time to 4 p.m., not 10 p.m. like we had done previously. Mondays will begin with a happy hour and then we’re also having a karaoke night. It will bring in a certain clientele who wants to relax and start off the week singing their favorite songs. The sound is plugged in through the DJ booth so all the singers have club sound, which you don’t see very often.
What would you say to people to encourage them to come out to Liquid if they haven’t visited in a while?
Most people know this already, but what’s great about Liquid is that it’s a place where everyone can have fun, whether they’re white, black, gay, straight, pink, purple, what have you. I want to build on what people already know about Tampa: that this city has a nice, positive, gay community. I want everyone to feel comfortable, and it’s my job to make sure they will.