Old Seminole Heights’ Corner Club—sold last year to Tampa Bay restaurant vet Jeni Armstrong—is almost ready for business and hoping for an early April opening.
Armstrong is keeping the Corner Club moniker, kept the bones of the building, built in 1945, but did clean it out. In doing so, Armstrong found a lot of good stuff to work with including some covered up windows.
“We did not add any windows, we only replaced ones,” Armstrong told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. For instance, while gutting the old women’s bathroom she and her team found a window which now operates as the takeout window.
Last week, I got to check out the new space at 1502 E Sligh Ave. As a long time regular of the old Corner Club, I had butterflies walking into my old haunt, located at the corner of 15th Street and Sligh Avenue, it was like seeing an old boyfriend for the first time in a long while. But that old boyfriend had been working out, gotten a facelift and stopped smoking. Well, I think I might be smitten.
So listen: It’s not the Corner Club we knew. That bar is closed. Patti is not behind the bar, and you can’t smoke inside. Cheese puffs are replaced with pineapple toast, hand pies and smoked fish dip. There’s King State coffee, Chris Preston and Cory Robinson artwork in the bathrooms, and a patio out back.
There is beer and wine, and a full menu with brunch on the weekends. What’s more is that Chef Suzanne Crouch formerly of Cass Street Deli and Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe is in charge of the kitchen.
A lot of people gripe about the neighborhood changing, with the renovation of the Corner Club hot on people’s list of complaints. Armstrong wants people not to make opinions without a reference.
“I tell them to at least give us a chance,” Armstrong said. Change is inevitable, and like my editor said to me, “They could’ve torn it down and built a Starbucks.”
“To safely succeed in this new climate we needed to pivot from being just a bar to appealing to the broader audience,” Armstrong added, “With not only what we serve but who we serve. Our diverse menu will help define our new identity.”
A rough draft of the menu shared with CL includes breakfast items (bagels, biscuits, classics), apps (chicken yakitori, papas bravas, hand pies), share plates (smoked fish dip, sliders), boards (charcuterie, cast iron sliders), desert and vegan options, plus coffee and weekend brunch.
And Armstrong has a lot of experience for the new Corner Club to succeed. She helped open The Bricks in Ybor City and also assisted with operations at the Skatepark of Tampa, which shares an owner with The Bricks. Before that, Armstrong was a 15-year vet of Starbucks.
Though Armstrong hasn’t hired a KJ yet, they are planning on having karaoke on the weekends though unsure if it will be one or two nights.
Some Corner Club traditions are staying the same. There is still PBR and boiled peanuts—Armstrong inherited about eight Crock-Pots with the purchase. In fact, she got everything that was inside except for one very important piece, the Waylon Jennings and Willy Nelson picture that lived to the west of the front door.
“It was supposed to come with the sale, but when we got the keys it was gone,” Armstrong said. She's not complaining though, because while clearing things out she found a Dolly Parton picture, in the exact same style, which now hangs in the same spot.
The Corner Club still has the same foosball table (the rest of the games were rented) and a lot of televisions.
Armstrong is just waiting on a health inspection and the beer and wine transfer to be complete. Not a lot of paperwork is holding the process up “...since we only did renovations...nothing was added,” she said.
The Corner Club will be open from Monday-Sunday 8 a.m. to 11 p.m., but Armstrong will adjust if she sees the need to stay open later, especially on weekends.
Armstrong is taking resumes for BOH and FOH positions at [email protected]. You can keep up with progress via the Corner Club Facebook page.
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