tampabay.com

Pizza, beer will replace books at Kennedy store

By SHARON GINN
Published June 9, 2006


A popular SoHo pizza shop and a new cafe plan to take over the site of an independent book store on busy Kennedy Boulevard.

Deck Pizza and Pub, which opened in early 2005 on Platt Street, this fall plans to move into the Imperial Book Lodge site on Kennedy just east of Howard Avenue.

Andy Alvarez and his wife, Kimberly, last month purchased the 1930 Arts and Crafts bungalow, which houses the bookstore, and a small apartment building behind it.

Crews recently cut down the large oak trees in the front yard to make way for the pizzeria and a new Tommy Bahama-style cafe.

Bookstore owner Ryan DeRamus has been informed he will need to vacate the building when his lease expires Aug. 31.

Alvarez, 34, who owns a software company, said he plans to reconfigure the bungalow at 2202 W Kennedy Blvd. for the restaurants. The cafe will face Kennedy and feature a large deck extending almost to the sidewalk. Palm trees will line the front of the lot.

"They tore down those beautiful trees, which is heartbreaking,'' DeRamus said. But "they're going to renovate the house, which is nice. It's not going to look anything like what it looks like now.''

Deck Pizza will open adjacent to the cafe. It will offer delivery and a takeout counter but no seating. Alvarez said he hopes to open the restaurants this fall, not long after the University of Tampa students return to school.

Eventually, Alvarez intends to convert the four apartment units in the back building into offices for lawyers and other professionals. He paid $515,000 for the bungalow and $405,000 for the other building, according to county records.

"The city's been needing something like this,'' Alvarez said.

"I can't believe you can drive from where I live (the western side of South Tampa) all the way downtown on Kennedy and not have one great outdoor place you can get a cheeseburger and beer.''

Alvarez will collaborate with Deck Pizza owner Ryan Quinn on both restaurants.

Quinn said he will move his pizza business to the new building about the same time the cafe opens. The tentative name for the cafe will be Quinn's Landing.

Alvarez and Quinn plan Florida-style food for the cafe, with live music on Thursday and Sunday nights in an effort to "lure in the downtown crowd and the UT crowd,'' Alvarez said.

Since opening a few blocks away next to Po'Boys Creole Cafe, Deck Pizza has become popular among the late-night bar crowd.

Meanwhile, the bookstore owner must figure out what's next for his funky store, which sells used books and occasionally hosts live music.

The bookstore has disappeared once before, last July when DeRamus closed it because of a rent increase.

He reopened in September when the landlord brought the rent back down.

DeRamus said he has "no idea'' whether he will be able to reopen the Imperial Book Lodge in another location.

"It's tough in this area right now,'' he said. "The rent I was paying before was based on my landlord having owned the place for 30 years.''