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Thursday, April 18, 2024

UF Midtown favorites The Rowdy Reptile and Fat Daddy’s to be replaced by Lil Rudy’s

Two late-night favorites close after 12 years

Patrons visit The Rowdy Reptile and Fat Daddy’s on its final weekend open on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023.
Patrons visit The Rowdy Reptile and Fat Daddy’s on its final weekend open on Friday, Aug. 25, 2023.

Students will shoot their last basketball hoop at The Rowdy Reptile and dance on the bar at Fats for the last time before the bars close Aug. 28. New owners will take charge of the properties and open Lil Rudy’s in their place Aug. 29.

“Both Fats and Rowdy have futures, not sure when or where, but they do,” The Rowdy Reptile and Fat Daddy’s owner J.D. Chester said. 

After 12 years of business, The Rowdy Reptile and Fat Daddy’s — located at Midtown on the corner of University Avenue and Northwest 17th Street — announced Aug. 25 they will be closing their doors and reopening under new ownership. 

The Rowdy Reptile and Fat Daddy’s are more than just bars for many UF students. They have been a home to those looking to forget the stress of classes, meet new friends or sing their hearts out after a breakup on Monday karaoke nights. 

The two neighboring bars have become a staple in Midtown nightlife, and many students view it as a rite of passage to visit after turning 21. 

Chester appreciated contributing to these students’ memories, he said. 

“The most gratifying part was building something from scratch that has changed the lives of thousands and thousands of people and created great memories,” Chester said. 

The two bars celebrated a final goodbye this weekend with a farewell tour, welcoming students to stop by one last time for discounted drinks, blaring music and dancing.

Hundreds of students gathered in line the night of Aug. 26  for “Send Off Saturday” as whispers of disbelief and disappointment about the closing circulated Midtown. Many students said they were visiting Fat Daddy’s or The Rowdy Reptile for the first time, hoping to get a glimpse of the place before its closing. 

Natan Zeledón, a UF business freshman who prefers to call himself the “Rowdy Reptile rebel,” said Rowdy’s stands out from any other bar in Midtown. 

“I’ve never been to a bar like that: the music, the vibes, the people,” Zeledón said. “I just connect with so many different things. I love all the people there … The vibes are so amazing, and it separates it from other bars because they’re the best club in Midtown.” 

The Rowdy Reptile has become well-known among students for its sports bar-style food, making it a hotspot for late-night drinking and watch parties during football season and March Madness. 

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Aside from the food and variety of drinks, many students said they will miss the bars’ up-to-date music and remixes. Brianna Boni, a 21-year-old UF business administration senior, visited Fat Daddy’s almost every other weekend and is disappointed to see it go. 

“Fats is such a vibe,” Boni said. “I’m going to miss coming with my roommate and dancing our hearts out and having such a great time. This is the place to go in Midtown … their music is amazing.” 

The bars' decision to close has become disappointing news for many UF first-year students looking forward to visiting when they turn 21. Students also shared concerns that the closing will create longer lines and wait times for other Midtown bars.

Caroline Alsina, an 18-year-old UF construction freshman, said she and her friends believe The Rowdy Reptile and Fat Daddy’s are a rite of passage they missed out on.

“I’m honestly really sad that it’s closing,” Alsina said. “It’s very different in the fact that a lot of us haven’t been able to experience it. I feel like for a little bit it’s just going to be The Social and JJ’s, and the lines are going to be crazy.”

Although UF newcomers will no longer have the opportunity to experience its loud music, slippery floors and beloved basketball hoop, Fats and Rowdy’s have provided many upperclassmen with memories that have helped to define their college experience. 

Contact Alexandra Burns at aburns@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @alexaburnsuf.


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