The Swamp Restaurant, which for more than two decades was the main gathering spot in Midtown for UF students, alumni and Gator fans, is scheduled to reopen this summer.
Just not in Midtown, where a block of high-rent apartments has taken its place.
Aside from that, however, customers may not see much difference, according to the The Swamp Restaurant owner, Ryan Prodesky.
The new Swamp is under construction in the heart of Gainesville’s Innovation District, two blocks from the UF campus and as many from downtown.
“When people are sitting out on the front lawn, they are going to get lost in the fact they're at The Swamp,” Prodesky said. “They’re going to feel like they’re back at the old Swamp because the feel will be the same.”
Prodesky plans to have the characteristic Swamp features at the new location, including a white picket fence and the walkway made of brick with notes engraved on them.
The old Swamp Restaurant closed its doors on June 30, 2020, after many attempts to keep it open.
When the site was purchased by a national developer, an online petition to keep the restaurant at the site received over 34,000 signatures. A state representative at the time, Anthony Sabatini, even attempted to file a bill that would designate the old building as a historic landmark. UF’s student government backed Sabatini with a “Resolution to Save The Swamp”.
“We were forced to make a difficult decision,” Prodesky said. “I had to choose between reopening on the original location under six stories of an apartment building or to move the location and rebuild, and we chose that.”
Prodesky aims to open by July 2022, barring any setbacks. The new restaurant will be roughly 20 percent larger, he said, and it is designed in a way as to make overflow areas not as big of a problem. The old restaurant had issues of overflow around the bathroom and bar area.
All the memorabilia and art from the previous store will be transferred to the new one, he said.
Scott Rowe, a Gainesville resident, witnessed the opening of The Swamp in 1994, when he was studying at UF. Its impact was immediate, he said.
“When The Swamp opened my sophomore year in college, it was quite popular right out of the gate...mainly due to its location across from the stadium,” Rowe said. “It wasn’t before long that my buddies and I made it our spot, whether it was to watch the Gators, get drinks. I even brought my parents there when they visited!”
Rowe said the only thing he would have changed about the restaurant would have been to have it open during his freshman year so that he might have enjoyed it during all four of his years at UF. Rowe has raised a family in the Gainesville area and had brought his kids to the spot.
“It is special to visit with my kids and relive some of the amazing memories I had there,” Rowe said. “Tales of Spurrier’s big wins or Billy D’s dominance in hoops usually take center stage.”
T.J. Phelps, a current student at UF, has yet to experience The Swamp as a student.
“I remember coming to The Swamp as a kid whenever I would visit the University of Florida,” he said. “I would see all the college kids hanging out having a good time watching games.”
Phelps said the restaurant helped him choose to attend UF.
“I was sad to hear the initial news that it had been torn down, but I am eager to see what the new store will bring and what memories can be made,” he said.
He and other students say they are looking forward to seeing the new Swamp Restaurant. It has upwards of 5,000 followers across all its social media platforms and continues to grow in popularity. On sites such as Instagram, you can find updates on construction and more.
“I’m really excited to move where we have moved,” Prodesky said. “I think we’re able to have a better Swamp, have Swamp the way it was intended.”