Tampa LGBT Nightlife Staple Celebrates With a Turnabout Party
Saturday, November 7
Hotspots Exclusive Interview

City Side Lounge (3703 Henderson Blvd., Tampa) has welcomed the Tampa LGBT community CitySide_Flyerinto its establishment ever since it opened back in November 1990. Since then, the bar and lounge has grown to become a bedrock in the ever-changing bar scene in Tampa Bay. Jim Encke, who became the owner of City Side in late 2013, is only the third person to own the bar, and he has considered it his mission to not only cater to his loyal customer base, but grow the establishment to the best it’s been in the past 25 years.

Jim and the rest of the City Side crowd cordially invite you to the bar’s 25th anniversary party, which will be held on Saturday, November 7. Come on in early and enjoy good company and good drinks, served to you by a dolled-up staff! That’s right, the anniversary party will be coupled with their annual turnabout, and all of the bartenders will be in drag serving you one minute and performing on-stage the next! The turnabout show will begin at 10 p.m., and there will be karaoke in the side bar as well. Jim will also honor one special employee who has worked at City Side since the doors opened 25 years ago.

I interviewed Jim Encke about the bar’s success and what he wants to happen at City Side in the future in this exclusive Hotspots interview.

CitySide_JimEnckeWho has helped and guided you over these past two years that you’ve owned City Side?

There are so many people. I don’t want anyone to be mad if I don’t name anyone right now so I will go straight to three specific people. First, there’s my husband George, who supports me in all that I do, and has done so for over 15 years now. I also want to thank Miss Manny and TJ Rood, who work so hard and truly believe in City Side. Their outstanding support has guided me these past two years and I can’t be more appreciative.

So tell us about what you have up your sleeve for the anniversary party and Turnabout. Do you know who you’ll be dressed up as this year?

I don’t. I really have no idea! [laughs] Two years ago, I was Mrs. Doubtfire, and last year I couldn’t CitySide_copyattend, so this year I am wanting my costume to be intense. I am enlisting the help of [Miss City Side 2014] Anjila Cavalier.

The first time we interviewed you in Hotspots was just after you became the owner two years ago. Have these last two years exceeded your expectations?

This place has exceeded my expectations beyond belief. So many things have changed and we’ve still been a formidable force in the community and I’m so proud of that. Now that Baxter’s has closed, we’re now the only gay bar in South Tampa, and it’s important for us to continue to have a high profile here. We’re going to make South Tampa proud of all the things we’re doing now and in the future.

What sets City Side apart from any other bar in Tampa?

Our job is to provide a great atmosphere for people to get together to enjoy great drinks, and the clientele that was already there when I came on board has approved of what we’ve done. CitySide_copy2Not only that, but our customer base has grown. People love the ambience and they love the customer service. They know they will make friends with a bartender who will know your name, your drink order, and eventually a lot of things about you. That’s the customized service that you don’t see much anymore in many places across the country. I don’t want it to die here.

I think customers really want to know when your new electric “City Side Lounge” sign will be hoisted up above the bar!

All the paperwork is done, and now we just have to go through the city to get the variance prepared. Once that’s done, yes, it’s going up. People have seen it for a year now and they want that sign up. The current sign was from the ’90s, when you had to be more low-key in advertising a gay bar. The new sign isn’t too flashy, but it is nice and classy, and it stands out a lot more. Once the sign goes up, it will be a huge draw. People who may not know that a gay bar is down here will finally get to spot it from Henderson Boulevard.

City Side is open from 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. Monday through Sunday. For more information, visit their website at or call them at (813) 350-0600.