TAMPA - When Coralys Castro and her friends showed up at the Channelside Ten on Wednesday afternoon, they were disappointed the place was out of business.
Following in the footsteps of Stumps Supper Club and Howl At The Moon piano bar, the movie theater is now the third anchor tenant here to shut its doors this month.
"And I'm pretty concerned that this is seeming to be like its time to get out our "Ouija boards" and our "Magic 8-Balls" and try to figure out what to do," said Janet Griffin. She has been running the White House Gear shop for the past five years, and says the theater's demise will further diminish her woeful walk-by, but she isn't ready to throw in the towel... yet.
"Channelside," she exclaimed, "could be fabulous again."
Back when it opened in 2001, the built-on-Tampa-Port-Authority property entertainment district was a hit, but economic hits of late have taken their toll. And not even last month's Republican National Convention could bring things back from the brink.
"The convention was no effect at all," said Richard Nietzel of Wine Design. " As a matter of fact, we lost business."
Still, there's no whining, only optimism for what could come.
"We certainly hope so, but there needs to be some leadership and we're not getting it from the management company that's here."
And even as our disappointed movie-goers went elsewhere, we were reminded of discussions between the bank that now owns the in-receivership complex and a group of local investors led by Lightning owner Jeff Vinik.
According to Bill Wickett, the Lightning's Executive Vice President for Communications, those investors remain patiently committed to Channelside and are monitoring the developments with more than just a casual interest.
And as far as the Port is concerned, that's a good thing.
"And we hope it'll be soon," said commissioner Sandra Murman. "It'd be great to get that really finalized so that this community can feel good about the direction this project's going to go."
Indeed, every time I mentioned the name Vinik it was greeted with enthusiasm. Everyone I mentioned it to was smiling. He is the 'white knight"
The hopes and dreams of a district are riding on his deal. A deal that appears to truly in the works.
We'll keep you posted.
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UPDATE: The National Weather Service says the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, was a top-of-the-scale EF-5 twister with winds of at least 200 mph.