Formerly part of the Kapok Tree Restaurant a popular tourist trap from the 1960s through the 1980s the Kapok Gardens now serve as the scenic backdrop for myriad Bay area wedding receptions, anniversaries and corporate parties. Open to the public most other times, the European-style gardens are located behind the Clearwater Sam Ash music store, which muffles the sound of traffic on busy McMullen-Booth Drive. Towering hedges enclose the rest of the garden and are marked by pillars, archways, planters and assorted statuary. The most striking feature is a vast fountain wall with chiseled faces spewing spouts of water amidst cascading waterfalls, all of it landing in a quiet pool. Elegant statues, scattered benches, lush greenery and bright blooms, delicate fountains, an intimate gazebo, a small lagoon all give the gardens a hushed, enchanted, almost secretive feel.
At the Empire club in Ybor City, you might want to be careful when ordering a shot. The hip-hop club is known for violence almost as much as the thumpin beats coming out the door. The latest came in May when a fight inside the club spilled out into the streets, culminating in the shooting death of a 28-year-old. Last year, another man was stabbed in the clubs parking lot following an argument inside the bar; and in 2002, two Empire bouncers were shot when they told a man to remove his hat. Of course, thats not counting the fights that dont make the news. To be fair, any bar with a heavy youth contingent will attract some mayhem, but at Empire it seems to be just part of the tab.
In the past few years, Americans have been forced to come to grips with our latest landscape monstrosity: the cell phone tower. A silver cylinder bigger than a light pole but smaller than a radio antenna, the cell-phone tower is an ugly but necessary blight on the urban horizon. In the interest of city beautification, some of these sticks have been disguised to better blend into the background. Take the one behind Big Joes auto repair shop just off the corner of Dale Mabry and Henderson: Someone threw on a coat of brown paint, added sparse artificial branches at the top, and voilà, now its a tree! The disguise is utterly unconvincing, and, if anything, the paint job makes the tower even more of an eyesore which makes it all the more endearing, dont you think?
Some cities are plagued with rats; others with flies. But tiny Kenneth City on the tip of St. Petersburgs north side is besieged with Muscovy ducks. These non-native, dull-feathered fowls and their predilection for uprooting gardens and spreading excrement have prompted Mayor Muriel Whitman to declare the town overrun. But she refuses to kill them, and trapping the ducks is too expensive for the towns small budget. So the feathered plague rages on.
So a guy comes down from Ocala with some big plans that just dont seem to make any sense: He dumps a reported $1.7 million into Chateau Privé, a private nightclub on Howard Avenue in South Tampa. He spiffs the place up with plush furniture and original art. He jazzes up his launch party with a white Bengal tiger in a cage. The club charges around $5,000 for a membership for which you get a $2,000 food and beverage credit, a private entrance and (WTF?) a private locker. Meanwhile, the adjacent St. Barts Island House restaurant and club stays open to the public, and is often busy. Other than some alleged exclusivity and posh surroundings, what exactly did the club have to offer? Not much, figured young, wealthy South Tampans, the target demographic. Chateau Privé abruptly closed on July 13, two months after the opening bash, leaving its small group of members (about 50) out in the cold and about 25 employees awaiting as much as a months pay. At the time, a spokeswoman for Philip Glassman, the owner, said he intended to pay the staff. We have a suggestion for Mr. Glassman for his next luxury venture: Its called a market study.
If youve seen the signs surrounding the busy construction site of what will soon be the Element condo tower in downtown Tampa, you might find yourself scratching your head and wondering, Where have I seen this before? The answer lies right across the street. Element is the latest downtown venture of the Novare Group, and is a close facsimile of the builders recently completed Skypoint tower. (You know, the big blue building in downtown Tampa.) If youre ready to take the urbanite plunge, now might be the time to buy. Of course, if you falter, Novare will probably just start another tower once Element is complete. And then another. And another.
On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, this narrow, smoky dive just north of downtown Tampa fills up with alternately tone-deaf and seasoned singers who belt out everything from Patsy Cline to Madonna. The scene is typical of any other overlooked neighborhood bar that offers karaoke, American beer and cheap well drinks; however, theres one very queer thing about this place: the patrons. Here at Azaleas, heteros are the minority. The women talk about football, the men ignore them, and everyone singing and watching has a gay old time regardless of their particular orientation.
If you regularly drive down Kennedy Boulevard in Tampa, you are no doubt familiar with the WTVT-13 Skytower Doppler radar obelisk. A tall thin tower with what looks like a boulder on top, the Skytower is not actually part of the Tampa skyline, but its a defining landmark nonetheless. In 2007, Channel 13s marketing department began plastering giant likenesses of many of the stations weather team on the side of the building. The first time we saw a colossal Paul Dellegatto, our instinct was to run for our lives lest we get crushed under the weathermans giant boot heel. Is it any wonder some TV folks have giant egos?
It began in the late 70s as a place for likeminded folks to enjoy music, art and friendship. Now, 30 years later, the Blueberry Patch a small hippie enclave on an acre of land in Gulfport is still going strong with free jams, open mics, art exhibits and live music four times a month. And instead of dwindling over time, the gathering spot owned by resident Dallas Bohrer only seems to be getting more popular.