Led by Founding Board of Governors Chairman Lee Bentley, Centre Club was established in 1984 to set the standard of excellence for Tampa Bay business professionals and community leaders. For more than 30 years, the Club has forged countless professional and personal relationships, hosted thousands of meetings and events, and hundreds of weddings for both Members and non-members alike.
Centre Club is part of the larger Invited Clubs portfolio. Invited Clubs (formerly ClubCorp) was founded in 1957 and provides amenities, community, and resources to build lasting relationships at more than 200 golf and country clubs, city clubs, and stadium clubs across 30 states, the District of Columbia, and two foreign countries.
We sat down with George Tucci, General Manager of Centre Club, to discuss its history and what it has to offer for our latest Drinking Buddies feature.
How did you get started with Centre Club?
“I’ve been with our company for about 9 years now. I started as a banquet server when I was at the University of Central Florida at our club in Orlando, the Citrus Club. I was there for 4 years and then I was our Service Director at the City Club Birmingham, AL, and then I was our Director of Operations inside the football stadium at the University of Texas for about 3 years. I started as the General Manager here in Tampa in January 2022. It was a great move for me because it’s the right-sized club for a first-time General Manager and I’m from Orlando originally, so I get to be closer to home.”
Can you tell us about the layout at Centre Club?
“Within our members-only space at Centre Club is our co-working space, Productivity. Then you move into the bar and restaurant area, Origins. We also have three Touchdown, or breakout rooms, that people can work out of. We have three main boardrooms that also serve as private event Rooms. The largest boardroom is our Ybor Room and then we have two smaller rooms – our Gallery Room and Urban Room. We also have a large ballroom that can accommodate about 220 people for seated events and about 300 people non-seated. Our members don’t have to pay a room rental fee, which provides a huge benefit.”
Has the City Club side always been a goal for Invited Clubs?
“While the bulk of our portfolio is Golf & Country Clubs, there is a huge focus on our City & Stadium Club division. Not much has changed in terms of the mission, goals, and intentions of Invited Clubs. It has always been a place where people come to get work done and grow their personal and professional networks. We also host lots of social events like bourbon tastings, wine dinners, chef’s tables, weddings, Easter brunch, Mother’s Day Brunch, and a holiday brunch, for example. There is a good mix of business-oriented and socially-oriented events.”
“Some of our events are hybrid. For example, we host Networking Happy Hours where members can come and network or just hang out and enjoy a cocktail. And that’s really what we do across our portfolio, at least on the City Club side, is try and bring value to our members not only from the beautiful spaces we have, the great food/beverage we offer, but also the opportunity for them to grow their network as much as they want. We are a great meeting spot for like-minded professionals.”
On your site, it says the Club pays homage to Tampa’s rich history. How does the Centre Club play into the story of the Tampa community?
“One of the great things about our Origin dining space is that you have two of the best views of Tampa. We are at a unique spot here in the Westshore district. To our east, you can see everything in downtown Tampa and then to our west and south, you can see across the bay, Tropicana Field, and downtown St. Pete.”
“Another interesting thing about the space is that when you first enter the Club, you’ll see a mural on the left-hand side with foundational Florida and Tampa elements. If you look up at the ceiling, you’ll notice a bunch of wooden sticks above the bar. That is derived from the Native American tribes here. They used to refer to lightning in the sky as ‘sticks of fire,’ and these sticks represent the lightning in the sky you’ll often see over Tampa Bay. It helps tie everything together with some of the other artwork and the historical context of Tampa.”
“In the Ybor Boardroom, you’ll see images of the cigar factories, which are a huge foundational piece of the city of Tampa. As you move throughout the club, you’ll see other pictures of Ybor, the downtown Tampa landscape, and other significant parts of the city that speak to the ‘origin’ theme of both the Centre Club and the restaurant.”
Can you tell us about the Origins menu?
“Chef [Scott Lazlo] is classically trained and has a lot of experience with foods of different cultures. You’ll see a good mix on our menu of Southern Florida staples – fresh gulf fish, a Cuban sandwich – a lot of items that resonate with residents of Tampa. You’ll also find a nice mix of Asian cuisine and some Italian as well. Our meatball sliders is one of our best-selling items, as is our Pad Thai.”
“We sell a lot of salads at the club, and they are more than just your traditional, ‘boring’ salad options. We have a great Filet & Wedge that’s one of our top sellers, a Blackened Salmon Salad with beautiful mandarin orange segments and pecans. Items that are fresh and have more character to them. We see a lot of popularity across all our dishes, so it’s not just one type of cuisine. We rotate our menus monthly and do about a 25% changeover just to ensure the menus aren’t getting stale.”
“For private events, we have a catering side that can tailor a menu to your needs. Whether a seated meal, buffet style, or combination, we can create a menu with mixed cuisines.”
What about your cocktails?
“Regarding our cocktails, it’s a good mix of creative craft cocktails but then your classic craft cocktails as well. You’ll find about a 50/50 split with some classics like your Old Fashioned and French 75, but also an assortment of craft cocktails that change monthly. Whatever it is, we use the freshest ingredients to create something truly unique.”
Centre Club also works with local alcohol suppliers to provide members and guests with a taste of Tampa Bay.
“We work a lot with Florida Avenue Brewing and Cigar City Brewing on the beer side. For spirits, we work a lot with Gambler’s Bay, which does a great Battleship 57 Navy Rum and Citrus Hearts Floridian gin. We also work with non-local groups and have a strong partnership with Garrison Brothers, based out of Hye, Texas. Though, we try and do as much local as we can with both food and beverage.”
What’s your go-to?
“Asian is my favorite cuisine type. I’ll often go for a Pad Thai, Sesame Ramen, or something else. Chef knows I’m Italian, so he’ll also whip up a meatball sub from time to time. As far as a favorite cocktail, I typically go for a nice floral gin or a bourbon on the rocks or neat. My current ‘drink of the year’ is a Casamigos Blanco mule. When it’s so hot here year-round, a nice refreshing cocktail is the way to go.”
How do the membership tiers work?
“We have a lot of variety and flexibility with our membership options. There are great programs in place for our Hero Category, which is for veterans, active-duty military, first responders, and non-profits. That’s a huge focus for us. Last year, Tampa was voted as the best place to live for veterans and military families. We have a huge presence here at the Club, so we have a special category dedicated to our heroes with preferred pricing and initiation fees.”
“X-Life is our travel program, which comes with most of our memberships. X-Life gives you certain benefits across the country, like complimentary golf rounds, complimentary meals at some of our Clubs, and discounted meals at other Clubs. At the Centre Club, X-Life members get 50% off their dining and non-alcoholic beverages. X-Life memberships are the most common we have.”
I noticed that philanthropy is a big component of the Centre Club. Can you speak more about that?
“Philanthropy is very near and dear to our hearts. We have a Philanthropy Committee that is dedicated to philanthropic events on behalf of the club. That committee goes through an entire interview process with charities that apply to host one of our monthly Helping Hands Happy Hours, where a good portion of those proceeds go back to that charity. One of the biggest we saw last year was Stageworks Theatre.”
“We also host an annual event here which we call our Charity Classic, which this year is on September 13th. 100% of the proceeds and revenue generated from that event goes to charity. 70% of that goes to a charity of our choice, which this year is Stageworks. The other 30% goes to the internal philanthropy within our company, which is our Employee Care Foundation. Any employee of an Invited Club property can reach out to the Care Foundation and apply for assistance with hardship. For instance, last September, when the hurricane hit and our building had to shut down, our staff were able to seek assistance from the Care Foundation to make up for hours they missed.”
“In our gallery room, we feature artwork from the MacDonald Training Center. These pieces are available for purchase and all the proceeds go back to the MTC. They bring us a new painting whenever they sell one and keep the room fresh while displaying work from local artists.”
How has Fintech helped Centre Club with its alcohol management?
“Fintech really streamlines everything for us. Everything is automatically paid so we don’t have any issues with vendors waiting on payment. We know our alcohol invoices are being paid properly and on time. With Fintech, we don’t have to worry about any of the accounting side of our alcohol. On the food side, I can have a stack of invoices from different vendors that I have to manually code, scan, and pay. I don’t have to do any of that with our alcohol invoices.”
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We thank George Tucci for the chance to speak about Centre Club in Tampa. Their location embodies the spirit of Tampa Bay in its design and food and beverage offerings. Stop by and see for yourself!