For years, Fred Fleming was a bigwig on the national barbecue circuit, opening his first eponymous restaurant in St. Petersburg in 1999. Not long after, he sold the concept and then his shares in the business (as well as the use of his name, his likeness or his voice in promoting his brand of barbecue).
Both Fleming's locations, one in Tampa and one in St. Petersburg, went belly up in 2009. At the time of the closures, Fleming, now plying his trade in Homosassa under the name Champions BBQ, said, "Assuming they don't reregister with the state by next April, I can use the name. It would be nice to have my name back."
Well, he's got it back. Champions BBQ is closed, and now Fred has moved back into St. Petersburg, in a spot across the street from his old location (which is now Luckie B's Bar-B-Que) on Fourth Street N. While an exact opening date is unknown, it looks close.
In other news, the Hooker Tea Company at 223 S Howard Ave. in Tampa has just dropped the Hooker franchise name and has been rebranded as Infusions Lounge. Owners Eric Starr and Kimberly Boyle will still purvey Hooker teas, but have added wine and beer (exclusively Cigar City offerings), a broader menu and coffee from Tampa's own Buddy Brew Coffee.
Also, Algusto, winner of many "best Mexican" awards since its launch in 2002 at 912 W Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa, appears to be closed. It's locked up tight and there's no one answering phones or e-mails.