Trivia nights rock Tampa Bay area pubs, restaurants

As rain pours down on a Tuesday night outside The Lodge in south Tampa, tables of teams huddle together, periodically looking up at a large projector screen containing a question they are all pondering.

Welcome to trivia night. A trend that is sweeping the Tampa Bay area. On any given night, you can find a plethora of bars and restaurants hosting a live show, fully equipped with a host, pop music playing and the spirit of competition in the air.

“Everybody knows something,” says Sarah Kivi, host of trivia nights and owner of Brain Squeeze Trivia. “Whether you’re the guy at the table that knows sports, or the girl who knows everything about pop culture, or you're the music guy. If you have the right mix of people at the table, you can do very well as a team.”

As time runs out on the three minutes Kivi has given the crowd to turn in answers, she gives a 30-second warning. A young professional looking fresh out of work in a shirt and tie dashes up with his answer slip in hand, an older gentlemen in a floral shirt and shorts casually walks up just in time.

“Good for 15 points, the answer is Jordan Spieth,” she says. “He is the sixth player in U.S. history to win the Masters and the U.S. Open in the same season,” Kivi says over a sound system. Some tables cheer, other tables give out a rowdy grumble of disappointment. Orders of craft beer, and The Lodge's infamous macaroni and cheese are ordered.

A perspective from the host

Kivi never set out to be a trivia host. Working in the health care field, not feeling completely fulfilled in her occupation, a friend of hers who hosted trivia nights with a different company asked her to take over when he had double booked himself one fateful night.

“At first, I thought this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard, she says. No way is anyone going to come out, but he knew I was good at public speaking, and I figured it’s decent money for a couple of hours, and ultimately I'm helping my friend out. Going in that night, I thought this would be a one-time thing, and about 20 minutes into hosting, I fell in love, and started thinking I could make this into a career.”

In 2014, Brain Squeeze Trivia was born. Today, in a typical week, Kivi and her team do up to 8 shows. Locations of shows include, Charann’s Tavern, Lonzalo’s Pizzeria, Grindhouse Bar & Grill, House of Brews, The Amsterdam, as well as The Lodge and Oldsmar Tap House

Most recently Kivi set herself apart from other trivia shows by bringing a new element to the show.

“Within the next month we will be displaying all questions and answers using AV technology,” she says. “We are the first trivia show in the Tampa Bay area to do so.”

The Oldsmar Tap House, is a staple for Kivi, hosting up to three shows a week. On Thursday nights she hosts general trivia, where questions can range from pop culture to history, geography to literature and anything in between and beyond. On Mondays, it is 'Cards Against Humanity' night, which Kivi says is an adult-themed show, compared to the PG-rated general trivia nights. Once a month Kivi comes back to The Oldsmar Tap House to host 'Adult Trivia' for mature audiences only.

A perspective from the pub owner

Theresa Pietro co-owner of The Oldsmar Tap House says the trivia nights have been great for business.

“We see about a 30- to 40-percent increase in revenue on trivia nights,” Pietro says. “It also brings in people who may not have otherwise come to our establishment, which is another plus.”

Pietro, a graduate of the University of Tampa, always dreamed of being in the restaurant management business.

“I have a background in facilities management. I worked at the University of Tampa for 25 years. When I first decided I wanted to buy a restaurant, I looked and looked but couldn't find anything. Then I came across The Oldsmar Tap House, and although it wasn't a restaurant per se, it changed my sights from a restaurant to a pub, where I still had the capabilities of a restaurant, but more fun. I love it, and I hope to retire here one day.”

Pietro goes on to say when she took over ownership of pub; there was no doubt in her mind she would continue trivia nights. In fact, she says, she added the 'Cards Against Humanity' show due to the popularity of the game.

A perspective from a trivia participant

Jessica Nollmann, a resident of Oldsmar, and regular at trivia nights has become one of those who has been swept up in the trivia trend.

“What I enjoy about trivia nights is the opportunity to have fun, connect with family and friends and just enjoy the atmosphere overall,” she says. “The hosts do a great job of infusing humor and keeping the crowd entertained throughout the entire evening.”

Nollmann, who started coming out to trivia nights about three years ago, says it was the establishment that introduced her to the trend.

“Oldsmar Taphouse, which is a place my husband and I frequent often, promoted Brain Squeeze Trivia, and on a whim we participated.”

She says she now attends regularly, and has even found success making it to the annual Brain Bowl, an event hosted by Brain Squeeze Trivia that is a tournament of champions, where the top teams from every location come together at Charann's Tavern and battle it out to see who is the brainiest of them all.

“Trivia night is great because people can come out and play whether you are 18 or 80,” Kivi says. “It has created its own community. You have a situation where in any other circumstance; different types of people would have never met. You may have a group of IT guys at one table, a table of girls who work in downtown Tampa at another and retired military men at the bar all interacting because they all knew what the capital of Liberia was. It's very interesting.”

For a complete list of locations as well as dates and times for trivia, visit the Brain Squeeze Trivia website.

Read more articles by Kimberly Patterson.

Kimberly Patterson is a news editor for 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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