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Fox lounge gets swank new den

The nightclub gets an upgrade when it opens next month at the ground floor of the Lincoln Center building with a grand piano and $80,000 worth of artwork.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 11, 2002


NEW DEN FOR THE FOX: For more than three decades, the Fox has been one of Tampa's most enduring nightclubs and clearing houses of high-end after hours lounging.

Now the old Fox is switching dens, from its original location at the base of the Team Staff office tower at 1211 N Westshore Blvd. to the ground floor of the Lincoln Center building at 5401 W Kennedy Blvd.

That address has a strong classy club pedigree, being the former site of Sacks, Bill's Sundowner and Brother's Lounge.

The old Fox was frankly in need of some updating. Owner Ted Wheless -- who took over the Fox 17 years ago and gave it its "lite jazz" format -- says "We're going to be 10 years ahead of ourselves" with the new one.

Swank?

Wheless said he's sunk $80,000 into the artwork alone. His collection includes several paintings with cheeky booze themes, life-size dummies of Louis Armstrong (check out his sweaty forehead) and Frank Sinatra (check out his sweaty shot glass).

Per tradition, it's oh-so-dark inside and intimate in size. But brushed metal, smoked glass and wood surfaces indicate the update.

The main lounge features a piano-shaped bar, small dance floor and raised stage. A hallway connects to a piano bar, complete with a baby grand, plasma screen TV and VIP lockers. The lockers are for Wheless' hand-picked list of Somebodies -- their own cherry wood, air conditioned, 1-foot, square lockbox perfect for stashing purses, stogies or PDAs. On special occasions, when Wheless is feeling particularly schmoozy, VIPs might find a little bottle of Knob Creek or the like inside.

Also per tradition, the Fox will offer live entertainment Monday through Saturday. Expect the tried-and-true format: lite jazz and "WAVE jazz," or, as Wheless, puts it, "California pop jazz."

He has hired executive chef Jayson Polansky, formerly of Zarzarac, to offer a lunch and light dinner menu of high end appetizers. Wheless plans to open Nov. 3.

Still don't think the new Fox will be as classy as the old?

Jazz vocalist Diane Schuur is booked to perform Nov. 12 and 13.

* * *

SO LONG, LE BORDEAUX: After 18 years in business, Le Bordeaux restaurant on Howard Avenue is changing its name and its menu.

St. Bart's Island House opens the first week in November, featuring French Caribbean cuisine. Owner Gordon Davis says it was time for a change. Customers can expect a new look inside and out that reflects the Caribbean theme.

The restaurant will continue to book parties and special events.

* * *

A LITTLE PHILLY ON KENNEDY: No wonder they call it the city of brotherly love.

A hearty "Hiya doin'?" greets customers entering Lenny's Sub Shop, a Philadelphia style operation, as manager Ernest Clingon describes it.

That means these folks have their own idea of what a real Philly cheese steak sandwich is. The chopped rib eye, onions, peppers and American Swiss (not mozzarella) are done up together on the grill. It's all then laid in the bun. Then the cherry pepper relish goes on top. You can add other toppings if you want (but the Lenny's people would wonder why).

Opened recently at 4050 W Kennedy Blvd., Lenny's is the latest of 52-store chain founded by Philadelphia native Len Moore. Two New Tampa locations are slated to open -- one at 17519 Preserve Walk Lane in four weeks, and 8225 Park Edge Drive in December.

Besides subs, Lenny's also offers hot and cold sandwiches and salads. It also caters.

* * *

INDIGO ON THE GO: The caffeine rush is on. The founders of Indigo Coffee say three more locations are in the works.

"We're real close to the number of cars that we need to meet our business plan," said owner Joe Timberlake. So Indigo's distinctive crescent moon face logo is scheduled to rise over Interstate 275 and Martin Luther King Boulevard (just south of the McDonald's) the first week of December. The next Indigo will open in Clearwater, on State Road 60 between Bayshore Drive and McMullen Booth Road in February or early March.

The new locations will look like the original, a small, angular building with twin drive-through windows designed to serve motorists only. The menu's coffee items are all based on Indigo's own Arabica blend. Iced coffee drinks, flavorings and pastries are also offered.

Timberlake is a former chief operating officer with Hop's restaurant. Co-founder Jeff Darrey is CEO of Tampa's Marketing Associates U.S.A.

- Times staff writer Susan Thurston contributed to this report.

-- Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call 226-3382, or e-mail citytimes@sptimes.com.

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