Feature Articles

The Tampa Mob's Watering Hole

By Scott M. Deitche

     Like many other Mafia families, the Trafficante group in Tampa invested in legitimate businesses, especially bars and nightclubs. Almost every major mob player in Tampa was somehow involved in the bar scene. One of the more infamous drinking establishments in town was the Dream Bar.

     The Dream Bar was located at 2801 Nebraska Ave, near Ybor City and downtown Tampa. The bar was built on land owned by Santo Trafficante Sr., patriarch of the Trafficante family, who became boss in 1950 following the untimely demise of James Lumia. After Trafficante Sr's death the land transferred to his sons, including the new boss, Santo Jr.

     The bar was a regular hangout for the bolita sellers, loansharks, hijackers, and other assorted businessmen over the years. Once, in the early 1960's the IRS sued to seize the bar. They claimed back taxes were owed on the property. A suspicious fire occurred at the bar just three days later.

     The tax trouble was eventually settled and by 1967 the bar was now under the ownership of Francesco Pietro Albano, aka Frank Albano, then a young (28) up and coming mobster in the Tampa family. To make things even better, he was married to the daughter of Sam Trafficante. Sam was one of Santo Jr.'s brother. He oversaw the "cracker" mob's gambling operations in rural Florida, among other things.

     In October of 1967, a grand jury began hearings into organized crime, and the liquor industry in Tampa. A number of top Tampa mafioso and associates appeared before the panel, all refusing to answer questions, or evading a direct answer. Among those called were; Frank Diecidue- the underboss and involved in bars and vending machines, Henry Trafficante, James Costa Longo, Joe Lazzara- brother of Augustine Primo Lazzara and owner of a few bars himself, and Johnny "Scarface" Rivera- loyal Trafficante soldier, bartender, hitman, longtime bodyguard to Charlie Wall, and all around nice guy.

     On October 26 the grand jury handed down indictments. Among those arrested were Frank Albano, Nick Scaglione, and Fano Trafficante. Fano was another of Santo Jr's brother and an employee at the Dream Bar. Fano and Frank were charged with unlawfully labeling liquor bottles, which was actually a federal offense. They were released on $1,500 bail.

     Both men pled no contest and were back at the bar in no time, but the law was watching. A raid occurred less than a month after the grand jury, looking for gambling equipment. State beverage officials couldn't prove the bar was mob controlled, but decided to have all employees fingerprinted. When Albano balked, trouble ensued again. Albano had enough, and eventually sold the bar.

     The Dream Bar was no more, but other watering holes, like Castaways, Mike's Lounge, and the Brother's Lounge would come to be used as meeting places and hangouts for the Tampa boys in the years to come. Of course, that's another story.

© 1999

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