Downtown Safety Harbor restaurant Tapping the Vine to change owners next week

Tapping the Vine, a fixture in the downtown Safety Harbor restaurant scene for the past six years, is changing owners next week as original owner Howard Latham steps away from the business.

Tapping the Vine, the downtown Safety Harbor restaurant located in an iconic old building on Main Street, is changing owners next week as original owner Howard Latham exits the business after six years.

According to Latham the upscale eatery known for its selection of fine wines as well as tapas-style and gluten-free meals will be taken over by a pair of business partners as he heads into retirement with his wife, Laura, after the final dinners are served on Saturday night.

Tapping the Vine owners Howard Latham and his wife, Laura. (Credit: Tapping the Vine)

“The building was sold in March, and the new owners of the business will be taking over next week,” Latham told Safety Harbor Connect on Thursday.

“From what I understand, they’re keeping the same name and theme and menu and operating the same way, most likely with some changes, similar to what they did across the way at Cello’s.”

Latham, a native of England who settled in Clearwater after spending some time in Canada, spent most of his life in accounting before he and Laura, a certified master sommelier, opened Tapping in 2011.

While he said he thoroughly enjoyed being a member of the community, Latham said that after six-plus years in the industry, he is more than ready for a break.

“This was my first, and last foray, into the restaurant business,” he said, adding, “It’s a lot of work.”

“It’s been six years and I’ve enjoyed it. This is a great community to be a part of. But my feet need a rest.”

When asked about his future plans, Latham pointed to the metal sign that hangs inside the restaurant’s foyer depicting a man in a hammock stretched between two palm trees holding a glass of wine aloft.

“I’ve hung a hammock in my backyard, and a week from now, that will be me,” he stated.

A speakeasy style supper club with a small cinema in the back is reportedly coming to 737 Main St. in downtown Safety Harbor.

“It’s time to relax and figure out something else.”

The building that houses Tapping at 737 Man St. is famous for being a former funeral home, but that hasn’t stopped business owners from converting the old mortuary into a variety of unique establishments.

But Latham said like most old buildings, it could use some modernization.

“These old buildings are great,” he said. “But they are old, and they’re not always conducive to running a modern business.”

Before he began preparing his for his final Thursday night dinner crowd, Latham thanked all the people who supported the restaurant over the years, and he expressed hope they will do the same for the new owners.

“I’d like to say thanks for the patronage to all my friends and customers,” he said.

“We’ve been fortunate to have a great response here, and I hope they support the new owners like they’ve supported us.”

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