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Everybody's Business

What to do with Cafe Pepe?

The owner has the old restaurant up for sale, and inquiries are coming in, but so far no decision has been made.

By MICHAEL CANNING, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 14, 2003


CAFE PEPE has fallen silent, but the building owner's phone hasn't.

A purveyor of Spanish cuisine since the early '60s, Cafe Pepe fell on hard times and closed in late December.

Co-owner Andy Celeiro says he keeps getting calls about the site.

Celeiro is keeping his options open. He said the 1921-vintage building and lot at 2006 W Kennedy Boulevard is for sale or lease. Another restaurant could go in, or the site could be redeveloped for office space. Interested parties have proposed all those things.

Celeiro also entertains ideas of modifying the building. He wouldn't predict when a decision might be made.

WILL TEXAS TOAST FLY ON GANDY? Sonic Drive-In aims to find out.

The bay area's first outpost of the Oklahoma City fast food chain is scheduled to open at 4411 W Gandy Blvd. (between Hesperides and Manhattan) in late March or early April, according to Sonic vice president Alan Walker.

South Tampa memories of the old drive-in, Steak n Shake, across from Plant High School, should be stirred. Sonic is one of the few companies of its type still offering car hop service at its locations. This one will be no exception. It will be equipped with 25 to 30 stalls. Customers will drive up, peruse the menu and place their orders via intercom.

Wait staff (on roller skates, if so inclined) will ferry food and money between the kitchen and customers.

Now celebrating its 50th year, Sonic features interpretations of American staples like hamburgers, onion rings, cream pie shakes, chili and cheese dogs, cherry limeade, and a series of hamburger and chicken sandwiches on thick sliced Texas toast.

WAS RAMSES A STICKLER FOR SPELLING? We can only guess. But Luxur Restaurant and Cafe owner Ali Alchikh is less concerned about a dead pharaoh's wrath than being confused with a modern day gambler's destination.

Yes, Alchikh's restaurant alludes to Luxor, Egypt, Ramses' seat of power. But he went with Luxur, not Luxor, "so we don't have the same name as the casino in Las Vegas," he said.

Alchikh recently assumed the restaurant at 713 N Franklin St. from Sam Chehab, who operated it as Cafe de Mardin since last summer. The food theme remains eastern Mediterranean, but with a more pronounced Moroccan element (see cous cous and tajeenc on the menu).

Alchikh also changed the decor. He added kitchen equipment and wait staff to accommodate the restaurant's shift from buffet to table service. And in an effort to lure crowds from nearby hotels, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center and Tampa Theatre, Luxur offers late-night hours Thursdays through Saturdays.

BARNIE'S, BARNEY LEAVE MALL: WestShore Plaza recently lost a coffee seller and child care facility. Mall veteran Barnie's Coffee and Tea Co. pulled out when its lease ended in January.

"They wanted a different size store in a different spot in the mall," said WestShore spokesperson Tara Martin. But there were no openings, she said.

Playtime, which left at the end of December, was only intended to be a short-term tenant, according to Martin. She added that talks are under way with national retailers to fill those two vacancies.

"DIGITAL SOUND, ANALOG ARCHITECTURE": We just love that slogan, which currently graces Tampa Theatre's soon-to-be refurbished marquee.

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

THE FIND

Decorative hooks

Here's a charming yet practical touch of shabby chic. Vintage door knobs and back plates are recyled onto pastel-painted boards to use as clever hooks. They sell for $35 apiece at Creme de la Creme, 4246 Bay to Bay Blvd. Call 835-6460 for hours.

-- AMY SCHERZER

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