Community of joiners

By Alexandra Zayas
Published June 29, 2007

BELMAR SHORES - The idea hit Davelis "D.C." Goutoufas when he first toured a UPS store that was for sale. There were lights and security cameras throughout the store, because patrons had all-hours access to their P.O. boxes.

Goutoufas, a banker who always dreamed of opening his own cigar shop, got a crazy idea:

What if cigar smokers had the same kind of 24/7 access to cigar lockers? What if they had a place where they could smoke, whenever they wanted?

He called his longtime friend Stanley Pinder and pitched the idea. Pinder, a lifelong marine engineer, was hesitant at first.

But when he saw the site, he envisioned it: "The smoking area that every million-dollar home would like to have."

And so, Gaspar's was born.

Goutoufas and Pinder bought the location at 3675 S Westshore Blvd., gave it a makeover and are set to open it Wednesday.

Here's how it works: Gaspar's will operate as a normal cigar shop during the day, with a coffee bar and plasma TVs for lounging.

After the owners lock up the retail area and go home, members who pay $495 per year can punch a key code to get in and access the lockers where they'll stow their cigars and bottles for enjoyment in the Old Tampa-style den.

It'll be Tampa's only all-hours smoking den.

Word-of-mouth about Gaspar's made its way through the owners' social circles so quickly, they have already sold out their first set of 24 lockers, including two corporate lockers, at $895, that allow businesses to host one event per year at Gaspar's.

The club will soon add more lockers, depending on membership requests.

Goutoufas and Pinder don't think they'll have trouble finding people to join. Both owners have deep roots in Tampa.

Goutoufas went to Plant High School, and was the first deaf person to graduate from the University of Tampa.

He and Pinder are both Freemasons in the Hillsborough lodge, and they both belong to Gasparilla krewes.

"We deal in the benefits of a good reputation, " Pinder said.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at 226-3354 or azayas@sptimes.com.

by ALEXANDRA ZAYAS Times Staff Writer

Live in Tampa? Join the club. All the cool grownups are doing it. Some of the most historic buildings in Ybor City are homes to social clubs. The Shriners, one of the world's biggest fraternal organizations, decided to host its convention - our largest ever - last year in downtown Tampa. And how big of a deal do we make about that holiday that celebrates pirate krewes? Some of us pay big bucks to join clubs. Others gather for free. Some join for tradition, fancy friends, business perks. Others join to share interests and backgrounds, to have fun. Here in Tampa, we value the red fez, the secret handshake, the lounge made exclusive by a velvet rope. We want a membership card, a special key. We want in.


Fast Facts:

Members-only clubs

Exclusivity isn't confined to the country club. Here's a sampling of other members-only clubs in Tampa, ranging from groups for sports fans to art lovers:

AFS Club

At the St. Pete Times Forum, 401 Channelside Drive

What it is: A place to watch the game in style.

What you get: Seats for all Tampa Bay Lightning and Storm games, access to the 40, 000-square-foot entertainment and lounge space, an all-inclusive buffet with carving stations, a dessert bar and unlimited beer, wine and soda, VIP parking, first dibs on concert tickets.

Annual fee: $6, 750

Chateau Prive

At St. Bart's Island House, 1502 S Howard Ave.

What it is: A VIP addition to a SoHo dining and nightlife staple, under new ownership.

What you get: Access into the 4, 500-square-foot clubhouse, access to Harbour Island private club, $2, 000 food and beverage allowance, private entrance, a personal locker, free admission and priority seating in non-member areas, personal member charge card, access to Chateau vehicles including the Mercedes S500.

Annual fee: $5, 000

Balcony Club

At Tampa Theatre, 711 N Franklin St.

What it is: A club for movie-lovers who want to help preserve the historic theatre.

What you get: Members-only receptions, screenings, special balcony seating, admission to all theatre-sponsored films (not including special events), premium seating at concerts, free refills on soda, popcorn and house coffee, a T-shirt, and front-of-the-line door admission.

Annual fee: $100

The Tampa Club

At the top of downtown's Bank of America building, 101 E Kennedy Blvd.

What it is: A private dinner club.

What you get: Social activities like cooking and wine clubs, mixers, discounts to products and services and a discounted menu, the ability to bring guests. The highest level of membership gets you access to use 18 local bay area clubs, including eight country clubs.

Annual fee: New members pay $5 more than monthly dues, which start at $41 for those under 30, and slide up by age group. (The $2, 500 initiation fee was waived for club's 25th anniversary.)

El Circulo Cubano

In the historic Cuban Club in Ybor City, 2010 Avenida Repblica de Cuba.

What it is: One of several heritage clubs in the area, this one focusses on celebrating Cuban heritage and preserving the historic building.

What you get: Social and cultural events, a monthly happy hour, a monthly newsletter, tickets to the annual Mother's Day celebration. Upgraded membership gets you into the Sociedad de Mambi, a krewe that participates in parades, tickets to the gala and 25 percent off of the bar and room rentals.

Annual fee: $425 for families; $100 basic membership for a singles, $275 Mambi membership for singles.