It’s a place filled with people in cowboy hats, steel-toed boots, Wrangler jeans and big belt buckles. For some, this place is not their usual hang-out and the outfit may be foreign to them. However, for others these sights are nothing out of the ordinary after a night at the Dallas Bull.
The Dallas Bull, built in 1979, is the longest running country-western bar and nightclub in Tampa. Spanning 8,000 square feet, the Dallas Bull is separated into two rooms: the Main Room and the Bull Pen.
Originally, the Dallas Bull was in business as a restaurant and lounge. After time and some minor changes, the Dallas Bull became known for its live music.
Two bands would play every night in the Dallas Bull in earlier years, and the club still offers a live band once a week. The Silver Eagle Band performs in the bar every Friday night. High-profile celebrities such as Kenny Chesney and The Judds have performed at the club. Lewis Surratt, owner of the Dallas Bull, said he recalls the star names that have been associated with the bar.
“One of the previous owners actually rejected Garth Brooks from performing here. He thought he would never amount to anything,” said Surratt.
Along with live music, the Dallas Bull also offers something a little more to the liking of die-hard country individuals. Mechanical bull rides take place in the bar every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday night.
In the opening years, a live bull inhabited the Bull Pen. With only a dirt floor and a tin roof, patrons were allowed to ride the bull within the walls of the bar. Because liability suits were all too probable, the owners made the choice to protect themselves and their attendants by replacing the live bull with a mechanical one.
The Dallas Bull is seven miles from the USF campus and in the past has granted USF students free admission if they have valid school identification cards, however, it is not running any specials of that kind now.
“We have had specials for college students to try and diversify our crowd, but we didn’t have much luck with it. We just need to find the right promotion company,” said Surratt.
However, college students still visit the Dallas Bull weekly. According to Surratt, the bar sees most of its college students on Thursday night, which is Ladies Night. Thursday night also features disc jockeys from WQYK. A College Night was featured on Wednesdays for a few weeks, although it was not very successful.
“I go there every Thursday night and have the time of my life. It’s a great alternative to the other clubs in Ybor City, because it’s a nice change of scenery,” said Kristin Cain, a USF student and a bar patron.
The Dallas Bull is located off U.S. Highway 301, and is the only bar in sight for a long ways. Instead of stowing cars away in a parking garage, the Dallas Bull has on-site parking that is dominated with big trucks. Blazing in yellow across the top of the building is the name of the bar, and a sign resides right off the road donning the logo of a snorting bull and the words “Still Country.”
The country-western bar also offers dancing lessons every night before it opens. Beginners, couples and line dancing lessons are offered Tuesday through Saturday for those who are hesitant to visit the bar without knowing its dances. Karaoke is also offered two nights out of the week.
Although, country is not the only genre of music that is played during the operating hours of the Dallas Bull. Oldies, as well as hip-hop and music from the ’70s and ’80s, are played for the patrons of the bar. Couple and line dances are performed to some songs; freestyle dancing is typical of other songs. The Dallas Bull also features a “Booty Shake” contest on Thursday nights and a not-so-ordinary dance tagged “The Gator.”
“The Gator is a one-of-a-kind dance. The objective is to throw a person’s hat on the dance floor, and they have to retrieve it by dancing on the floor around it. It’s one of the most peculiar things I’ve ever seen,” said Bradley Cole, a regular at the Dallas Bull.