While the previous location in Midtown is long gone, the same lively energy is present in The Swamp Restaurant’s new Innovation District spot two years later.
Students and alumni lined up outside the restaurant in anticipation with about 1,500 nostalgic Gators passing through on opening day.
After being forced to shut its doors due to property ownership issues and new construction in June 2020, The Swamp Restaurant reopened Aug. 29 — ushering in some improved features while still staying true to its roots.
Only a 15-minute walk from its previous location at 1642 W. University Ave., The Swamp now sits in the Innovation District at 1104 SW 2nd Ave., about two blocks from campus and closer to Gainesville’s downtown area.
Ryan Prodesky, owner of The Swamp Restaurant, said reopening gave the restaurant the opportunity to be a part of the UF experience again. For the majority of its 28-year legacy, The Swamp was located a short distance away from Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, making it a gameday favorite for many UF students and alumni.
“I’m excited about bringing The Swamp back in the way that it was intended and the way people remember it,” Prodesky said.
The restaurant was sure to reopen in time for the first football game of the season on Sept. 3.
“We pride ourselves on being the focal point of Gator Nation any time that there's a big event,” Prodesky said. “We intend to be a place that is part of that celebration, and we look forward to continuing that tradition.”
The new location features the same iconic visuals as the original — the inscribed bricks, white picket fence and, according to Prodesky, almost the same blueprints as before. The restaurant also kept a similar menu, Prodesky said, and plans to reinstate 10 a.m. Sunday brunch.
Alongside the same well-known architecture and continued traditions, the new spot sports new additions to create an improved customer experience, he said. These changes include more TVs, a new electronic system that allows customers to place their order directly from their table and upgraded sound systems.
As for the decision to temporarily close in the first place, Prodesky said the establishment had no choice — the land was bought by real estate development company 908 Group, and they tore the restaurant down. The restaurant was left with two choices, he said: relocate, or rebuild in the same location but under a high-rise apartment unit.
Ultimately, he chose to relocate to maintain The Swamp’s identity and independence.
The initial announcement of the restaurant’s closure left many students outraged, with a 2019 petition to save The Swamp amassing almost 35,000 signatures.
After news of The Swamp’s relocation, many students took to social media to voice their concerns. Fans of the restaurant’s previous location made comments via Twitter and Instagram claiming that the new spot wouldn't be the same because of the distance from campus.
Lydia Murray, a 24-year-old 2019 UF graduate, said she holds a deep appreciation for the original location, having frequented The Swamp for a bite between classes and gameday gatherings. The restaurant’s proximity to the stadium and campus was a part of what made it great, she said.
Despite the perks of the previous location, Murray said the restaurant’s reputation and the nostalgia associated with it — especially among alumni — is enough to keep The Swamp a Gainesville landmark.
“It does make me sad that it’s farther from campus and that all the local places are being pushed out by the gentrification,” Murray said. “As far as the status of The Swamp, it’s still gonna be super famous and well known by people who live in Gainesville and go to the university.”
Student support for The Swamp extends to the restaurant's team.
Francesca Beaumont, a 20-year-old UF junior, is a newly hired hostess at The Swamp. She was excited to work at the restaurant because of the atmosphere and how many people raved about it, she said.
“I know a lot of people really care about it,” Beaumont said. “I wanted to be a part of something that’s a Gainesville staple.”
Skylar Short, a 21-year-old UF advertising senior and server at The Swamp, also said the restaurant creates a fun atmosphere. Despite the differences a new location brings, she said, the restaurant’s nearly three-decade history makes it an integral part of Gainesville — and one that will continue to be an important part of the community.
“It’s back and better than ever,” Short said. “I think it is a Gainesville staple because Gainesville is The Swamp.”
Contact Luna Boales at email@example.com. Follow her twitter @LunaBoales.
Luna Boales is a third-year journalism major and avenue staff reporter. When she's not reporting, you'll find her writing poetry, meditating or reading.