Bar Owner Trying to Change Downtown Culture

Monday, November 14th, 2011

After 15 years of living in Largo, Jennifer Lantry was tired of hearing all the negative connotations associated with her adopted hometown.

Although O'Shy's has a special place for bike parking, the Largo First Friday festival is a family friendly event. Credit Jeffrey Rosenfield

Lantry has heard derogatory terms used to describe Largo, seen her friends travel away from the area for a fun night out on the town, and endured plenty of rolled eyes and sorry smiles when she told people she was opening a bar in the Old Northwest district off West Bay Drive.

“I want to get rid of the word Larghetto,” said Lantry, owner of O’Shy’s Irish Tap House on Clearwater-Largo Road. “I’m trying to get Largo to be a normal word in people’s minds.”

“The people who live here should stay here when they want to go out and have a good time,” she said.

In July, the charismatic Lantry, 33, formed Largo’s First Friday, a weekly street festival that caters to families, and she has already seen attendance grow from 800 for the initial event to 2,500 for the most recent one.

But the self-described talkaholic who is never at a loss for ideas has bigger plans for the recently revitalized area, which stretches along West Bay from Missouri Avenue to Clearwater-Largo Road.

“I want to have a Turkey Pub Trot for Thanksgiving and a Santa Pub Crawl near Christmas. There will be a $500 grand prize, and you have to visit all the bars in the area to win tickets and gain entry to the drawing,” she said.

Those concepts are just the tip of the idea iceberg for Lantry.

“The weekly Largo First Friday festival is going to have a rotating theme, like a winter wonderland, pirate invasion and Renaissance fair. That way people don’t get tired of coming to the same old thing every week,” Lantry reasons.

In addition to those events, Lantry is hosting a stone crab/seafood festival this Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m., with contributions from many area restaurants. And on Dec. 17-18 she’s organizing the inaugural Old Northwest Holiday Market, a combination fresh market and gift fair “just in time for the holidays.”

A longtime veteran of the bar and car businesses, Lantry has always had a knack for coming up with creative ways to promote her products.

Now that she is an owner of an establishment in an area she feels passionate about, she believes she has an obligation to unite her fellow business owners and contribute to the growth of her community.

“I’m very business friendly,” Lantry said. “I don’t believe I’m in competition with the other bars around here. The way I look at it is: What’s good for one of us is good for the whole area. We’re all in this together.”

Colleen Huffman, co-owner of the new Barley Mow Brewing Co. opening nearby, can attest to that.

“I was just over at Jennifer’s earlier, talking about our businesses,” Huffman said one day last week. “She has been incredibly supportive of what we are doing. I’m very thankful to her for all she’s done for us.”

Although some may believe Lantry is just out for herself, she just shrugs off any negativity.

“I’ve put a lot of my own money into these events, and most of all the proceeds go right back to funding the next festival,” she said. “I’m not getting rich off these things by any means.

“I just want us all to work together to make downtown Largo an entertainment destination. If we all work together, I don’t see any reason why this area can’t bloom like Dunedin, St. Pete and Palm Harbor.”

Source: Jeffrey Rosenfield, largo.patch.com

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