New Latin dance club, Factoria, opening in Ybor City building that formerly housed Club Empire

Owners say club will be completely different

TAMPA - The Ybor City building that once housed Club Empire, the scene of shootings and fights, is getting a makeover and a whole new theme.

The new owners say they will stay true to its original Tampa roots. 

Manuel Alvarez is reopening the building that housed Empire under a new name.  It's called Factoria, a Latin dance club paying tribute to Ybor's old cigar industry.

Alvarez hopes to start fresh, leaving thoughts of Empire in the past.  Alvarez said, "I really think we can move past that. It really is a situation where you're not going to have the same type of music. The same type of atmosphere. It's going to be a very warm atmosphere, a dress code."

In October last year, one person died in a shooting at Empire and another was seriously injured. Alvarez said, "Being that the club was a troubled club in the past, we wanted to give it a whole new shot in the arm."

If you ask Ybor City resident Chelsea Shepherd about what used to be Club Empire, she'll tell you the violent history makes her cringe. Shepherd said, "Whenever it was still open, we really didn't like it because I worked across the street. So whenever stuff would happen there, it would affect business and affect my income."

Jill Scott owns Hoffman Porges Gallery across the street.  She says her business doubled once Empire closed. Scott said, "When people die in places, it has a tendency to give people a negative connotation. So any time bad things are happening in any part of town, it doesn't do any of the businesses any good."

Alvarez's hope is that Factoria will attract tourists and people who enjoy a taste of Latin culture. Doors are scheduled to open next month.

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