The Money Men Follow-Up

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Neighbors are suggesting the donations may be connected to a "wet zoning" request pending in front of the

Tampa City Council for the block at Howard and Azeele in SoHo, which

includes the current Dubliner pub and Sangria's restaurant, among others. The

approval would allow Scott and Ortiz to buy the property from owner

Frank Kane and serve alcoholic beverages on the entire block. The

current zoning limits

the various businesses to wine and beer sales only or liquor sales

incidental to a restaurant use. The new wet zoning would allow liquor sales on the entire 14,000-square-foot block.

Some nearby residents fear the entire block could be reconstituted as a mega-nightclub (Ortiz also operates the large and successful Hyde Park Cafe).

But Ortiz says the new wet zoning designation is not a precursor to a

mega-club but instead would give patrons of the various different buildings

on the site the ability to barhop from one pub to another restaurant or upstairs cigar

bar. He told City Council members on Nov. 16:

"What we want to be able to do is we want to be able to

allow the guests to go from one location to the other location without

having to pour their drink out between the locations. By having one

complete wet zoning, it allows for them to be able to do so."

While some neighbors oppose the wet zoning, also citing parking concerns, others spoke in favor of the plan. One recounted how Ortiz's Hyde Park Cafe project on Platt Street cleaned up a dilapidated building and helped the nearby neighborhood.

The biggest champion that night, however, was Ferlita, according to a closed-caption transcript of the Nov. 17 hearing at which she addressed her fellow Council members:

"That has been the problem all along, the parking. And I think that they have gone miles and miles and miles to try to address that. Of course it's good for them. As businessmen. But as businessmen they are not trying to rape that neighborhood. They are trying to be good neighbors. And we has done with the people behind Hyde Park Cafe, I have heard them personally say this is great, and wonderful. I mean, that has to stand for something when that particular petitioner comes up.

"But at this point I am very, very comfortable having known what I have known about them and seeing what they want to do that this is something that you should consider.

"Am I lobbying you?

"You're right. Because I think this is the time of project we need. No offense to some of the other places but I am delighted that after I get out of the theater, Performing Arts Center, I have some other choices as we go along.
At this point it's either Bella or the Pancake House.

"I am strongly in support of it …"

City Council members delayed a vote on the wet zoning until their Dec. 7 meeting.

Ten different corportations that list either Scott or Ortiz or both as directors

gave to Ferlita, as did Ortiz and Scott themselves, another business

partner, Peter Hannouche, and the project's lawyer, Dennis Manelli.

Kane, the current landowner, also contributed. Most of the contributions came on the same date, June 22. The total: Nearly $6,500.

Neither Ortiz nor Scott could be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Ferlita would not discuss the matter at length Tuesday, saying she was between appointments when reached by telephone at her Seminole Heights drug store. Additionally, city council members are limited by the amount they can say about zoning matters that are considered quasi-judicial hearings that cannot be discussed outside of public meetings. But she did respond to Sharpe's findings:

"I’ve seen that [the allegations made on Sharpe's SoHo site]. My record stands for itself. [Any money given] doesn’t determine where I’m going on anything."

The Tampa Tribune is asking questions about these contributions as well, so look for the issue to hit the dailies soon.

Disclosure: As a political consultant in the 1990s, I represented Rose Ferlita in her first Tampa City Council campaign. And Sharpe's website features advertising from some SoHo businesses that compete with Ortiz and Scott's bars. (As does, Sharpe pointed out to me, Creative Loafing.)

Bill Sharpe of has ferreted out another big local fundraiser, one just under the Top 10 list I published in a recent issue of CL.

In this case, it is the owners of Whiskey Park bar in SoHo area of Tampa, who bundled more than $6,000 in contributions to Rose Ferlita in her successful campaign for the County Commission. Most of the money on a single date in June.

So, what do Chris Scott and Tommy Ortiz want from Rose Ferlita? Other than good government or her victory?

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