Purple Porpoise resurfaces on W. University Avenue

Andy Shaara, owner of the Purple Porpoise, has reopened the iconic bar at a new W. University Avenue location.

KRISTEN HINES/Special to The Sun
Published: Saturday, January 15, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2005 at 10:01 p.m.
Andy Shaara could only take so much time off. "I got bored, tired of fishing for trout and redfish four or five times a week."
Boredom was just one of the reasons the Purple Porpoise has resurfaced for a breath of air. The legendary wings-and-beer student hangout Shaara co-owned was a popular fixture at 1728 W. University Ave. for nearly 20 years before closing in December 2002.
He has made a lot of changes to the Porpoise - as it is nicknamed - he said, and they might not appeal to all of his former regulars, but he has been happy with how business has been since he opened Nov. 23 at 919 W. University Ave. in the former Common Grounds Coffee Shop.
"It's an OK location, but it's different. Midtown is different than across from campus," he said.
The new scaled-back format means it's not a sports bar anymore. There's one television above the bar, not dozens all around the place. And it's a fraction of its former size - 1,800 square feet compared with 10,000. Capacity is 102 people, compared with 885.
There's a pool table rather than Foosball. He still has plenty of beer, wine and happy hour pitcher specials. He has only a manager and three employees, compared with the 70 at the old place. "That's fine with me," he says.
A long wooden bar is lined with stools, and there are tables for those who wish to be seated to watch the band. The floor is black-and-white checkerboard linoleum tiles.
There is live music every night, from ska to acoustic to rock bands. Sunday is jam night. Hours are 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Friday, 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday is 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Most of the clientele start showing up around 9 p.m. or so, even though manager Alex Graham said there is a smattering of people at happy hour.
There is some food available - burgers, sandwiches and something Shaara calls "jumbo wings." But the food is delivered by Wing Zone next door and comprises less than 10 percent of the establishment's take, so smoking is allowed inside.
Parking is no problem whatsoever, Shaara said, with spots along the street, at a nearby BP gasoline station after it closes and behind the business. "We have 60 parking spots we can use; we have more free parking than anyone else along University Avenue."
Shaara, 51, has lived in Gainesville since 1969 and graduated from Gainesville High School. He worked for Domino's during high school, then was manager at the Tony & Pat's restaurant when it was on SW 13th Street. He became familiar with the 2102 SW 13th St. bar when he frequented its predecessor, King of Hearts. He opened the Porpoise in 1979.
When the Porpoise closed the winter of 2002, patrons held a candlelight vigil along the bar and there was lots of reminiscing. Regulars recalled the antics and the fun, even the romance, they found there.
A gradual diminishing of business led to its sale by co-owners Don Regan and Shaara. The whole business actually consisted of Sharkey's, the Blow Hole and Purple Porpoise. Shaara is now the sole owner.
That building housed the College Inn restaurant from the 1950s. The original Purple Porpoise moved there in April 1, 1983.
Marina Blomberg can be reached at 374-5025 or blombem@gvillesun.com.


Continued from 7B


No longer a sports bar

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