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The Shamrock.

Image: Chad Spencer

The 5 O’clock Club

Put it on your Sarasota bucket list. From rock to reggae, whatever the musical genre, the Five-O has specialized in booty-shaking live bands and DJs since 1955. The Hillview Street establishment still draws energetic locals of all ages, especially the professional set, to its intimate dance floor. When you need to catch your breath, take your G&T to the cool back patio scene. 1930 Hillview St., Sarasota, (941) 366-5555,

Aces Lounge

Built from a dismantled Tennessee barn, this casual, friendly Bradenton spot has a 50-foot ceiling, outdoor porch and terrific acoustics, making it one of the best places to hear live music in the region. It hosts local, regional and national acts at bargain-basement cover prices and offers a full selection of drinks and decent food, too. 343 Palma Sola Blvd., Bradenton, (941) 795-3886,

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The Beach Club

An anchor in the iconic Siesta Key Village district since 1947 and still a bustling nightspot, the big, rambling Beach Club draw crowds of mostly young locals seven days a week for dancing, DJs, live bands and vodka-and-Red Bulls well into the morning. Between its beachy vibe and high-energy atmosphere, this is the place to be during spring break. 5151 Ocean Blvd., Siesta Key, (941) 349-6311,

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Café Epicure

Sidewalk picture windows opposite a brightly lit wall of spirits make this a prime spot for car- and people-watching at the lively intersection of Main Street and Palm Avenue. The cocktail menu emphasizes fresh fruits and fun flavors, like the “Valentino,” a blend of strawberries, passionfruit purée, lemon juice, vodka and Prosecco. And the bar’s sleek Italian style attracts a sophisticated crowd. There’s also a wood-burning pizza oven pumping out stellar pies late into the night. 1298 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota, (941) 366-5648,

The Cock and Bull

This east Sarasota shack has specialized in adventurous and unusual craft beer since before most people in Sarasota even knew what craft beer was, with a global menu that runs about as long as Moby-Dick. Cool evenings next to the fire pit out back, beer in hand, with a great local band onstage, are one of Sarasota’s greatest unsung pleasures. 975 Cattlemen Road, Sarasota, (941) 363-1262

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Evie’s Tavern On Main

Dudes, it is a bar with a bowling alley—and on Main Street to boot. Leave it to local bar magnate Mike Evanoff, who opened this downtown Sarasota spot in 2015. Sports fans around the big horseshoe bar enjoy ample sightlines to big-screen TVs, with two lanes of 10-pin right next door. Audio from the big game punctuated by that sweet sound of crashing strikes? That’s some next-level sports bar atmosphere. 1560 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 366-7711,

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Growler’s Pub

A neighborhood joint where you might discuss Descartes or Degas or the merits of not wearing shoes, Growler’s attracts students, staff, professors and alum from nearby Ringling College of Art and Design and New College of Florida as well as longtime locals for excellent conversation, live music and the best, most academically challenging trivia night (Wednesdays) around. Beer only, but a superb selection curated by knowledgeable staff. 2831 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, (941) 487-7373,

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The Gator Club

On the National Register of Historic Places, this 103-year-old, two-story, red-brick building at the corner of Main Street and Lemon Avenue still oozes history even as it overflows with live music, dancing and general revelry, especially among downtown professionals of all ages. Head upstairs—no hats or open-toed shoes, gents—for the spacious lounge, weekend DJ and an excellent whiskey list. 1490 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 366-5969,


Cowboy up and look for the red-walled, barn-shaped building alongside the parking lot full of pickups. Bradenton’s classic country bar, Joyland has occupied a few locations over the decades, but this 14th Street spot feels just right. Inside, surrounded by several bars, the massive parquet floor fills each weekend with boot-scootin’ line dancers sipping long-necks and often moving to the live tunes of touring musical acts. 5520 14th
St. W., Bradenton, (941) 756-6060,

Kona Grill

An east Sarasota destination and a fixture at the bright and shiny Mall at UTC, Kona’s chic and breezy indoor/outdoor bar is a magnet for the stylish set, who sip Cosmos and nosh sushi in outfits from nearby Saks Fifth Avenue or Lilly Pulitzer. A destination even without the mall traffic, the bar stays lively serving passionfruit gin slings and coconut mojitos well after all the stores are closed. 150 University Town Center Drive, Sarasota, (941) 256-8005,

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The Lost Kangaroo Pub

A cornerstone in downtown Bradenton’s hopping Old Main Street bar scene, the spacious ’Roo fills with youthful droves for fun, flirting and Fireball. Stake out a home base for you and your pals, then work through the crowds to see who else you know. It’s the kind of place Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer would praise for a layout that encourages mingling. 406 12th St. W., Bradenton, (941) 747-8114,

Pangea Alchemy Lab

A chic speakeasy tucked behind a Main Street sandwich shop, Pangea has been crafting mind-blowing cocktails since before muddling was cool. Proprietor and competitive mixologist Brad Coburn conjures seasonal cocktail menus featuring exceptional spirits, fresh produce, homemade tinctures and other high-quality ingredients, often combining them with exuberant creativity. (For instance: a cocktail modeled after a bowl of Froot Loops.) The cool, dim atmosphere radiates magic, too. 1564 Main St., Sarasota, (941) 953-7111,

The Shamrock

Downtown Sarasota beer drinkers in the know rub elbows at the tiny but mighty ’Rock, where cash and cash alone can get you a bottle or can of some of the finest suds around. The quirky, weathered interior (there’s an actual phone booth) makes it all the more charming. Plus, it’s the spot for U.S. soccer fans and also home to a massive St. Patrick’s Day block party. 2257 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota, (941) 952-1730,

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Social Eatery & Bar

A newer star in the downtown Sarasota firmament, Social has a handsome bar inside, but the real appeal is the mod and manicured outdoor bar area, a concrete-walled, upscale, urban setting where the fashionable patrons sit under the stars sipping craft cocktails and nibbling on small plates of meatballs, flatbreads, charcuterie and more. A great place to kick off your night downtown or keep it going. 1219 First St., Sarasota, (941) 444-7072,

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The Starlite Room

Theater folk—both actors and audiences—have long loved this locale (previously the Broadway Bar) for pre- and post-show drinks. Two years ago, the Starlite Room upped the showbiz ante by reimagining the interior in a classy 1950s theater vibe and staging regular live performances upstairs. Order an Old Fashioned and get your Don Draper on. 1001 Cocoanut Ave., Sarasota, (941) 702-5613,

State Street Lounge

One of the original leaders in the local craft cocktail revolution, State Street doubled its space in 2014, adding a cozy-industrial lounge with metal, glass and textile details, a long bar, plush seating area and nifty back room. And they’re still sticklers for mixology, whether you’re craving an authentic Manhattan or an über-popular blackberry bramble. 1533 State St., Sarasota, (941) 951-1533,

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Image: Chad Spencer


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