So long, Whiskey Park SoHo; hello, plans for new club

Partners hope to get the entire area designated under the same wet zoning level.

Published November 24, 2006

Anyone wondering about the future of the popular S Howard Avenue nightclub Whiskey Park SoHo finally got an answer last week: It doesn't have one.

Owner Tommy Ortiz said Whiskey SoHo will cease to exist when Post Properties begins its condominium project at Howard and W Swann Avenue.

Rumors swirled all year that Ortiz might move Whiskey SoHo to the northwest corner of Howard and Azeele Street. That spot includes the Dubliner Pub, Sangria's Spanish Tapas Bar, SoHo Sushi and other businesses.

Actually, Ortiz said last week, he and his partners plan to open an entirely new restaurant and nightclub at that address. They plan a high-end restaurant downstairs, with no smoking allowed, and a club upstairs, where patrons can smoke.

Ortiz explained the plans in a meeting Nov. 14 with the Oscawana/Courier City Neighborhood Association and in a wet zoning hearing before Tampa City Council on Nov. 17.

At the hearing, Ortiz and Frank Kane, who owns the structures at Howard and Azeele, were unable to get council members to sign off.

They had hoped to get the entire area designated under the same wet zoning level, Ortiz said, so patrons could smoke upstairs and be able to go from business to business on the property without having to pour out their drinks.

However, several council members were concerned about designating the bottom floor, planned as a restaurant, under the designation for bars or clubs.

Ultimately, Kane and Ortiz said they would be fine with the restaurant designation downstairs. The issue was continued to the council's Dec. 7 meeting.

Numerous people spoke in support of the plan. Only a few spoke in opposition, including Karen Crawford of the Bayshore Gardens Neighborhood Association.

"It was never our intent to have Howard Avenue become Bourbon Avenue or Ybor City," Crawford said.

The Oscawana/Courier City group said it would support the plan if several conditions were met, including substantial additions to valet parking and self-parking options.

Council member Rose Ferlita championed the plan.

"This is the type of project that we need," she said.

Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or 226-3431.