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Ybor eatery Streetcar Charlie's grinds to a stop

Streetcar Charlie's, once the epicenter of the gay community in Ybor City, has shuttered.

The 3-year-old restaurant and bar closed abruptly Monday with tables still set and the bar still stocked.

While the news came as a surprise to customers, others said it had been in the works for a while.

"A lot of people saw it coming because it really had lost its zest," said Manny Alvarez, a representative for Focaccia Mia Management, which owns the building at 15th Street and Eighth Avenue. "It didn't go in the direction that it needed to grow."

Streetcar Charlie's Bar & Grille opened in early 2008 soon after the formation of the GaYbor District Coalition and Ybor's emergence as a prime party spot for gays and lesbians.

Its good food, reasonable prices and festive atmosphere drew gays, straights, locals and tourists alike, anyone who enjoyed the front-row view of Tampa's streetcars passing by the dining room.

The business fell into hard times last year when it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, saying it owed $120,000 for sales taxes. In recent weeks, employees picketed on the sidewalk with signs saying they had not been paid.

Carrie West, president of the GaYbor District Coalition, said the quality had declined and management seemed less passionate about Ybor.

"They lost interest in the restaurant," he said. "They lost the fun. We really tried to work with them, but they were not community players."

The building owners are actively pursuing tenants and hope to have a new gay-friendly concept in place by late summer.

"It's a wonderful restaurant location, one of the first things tourists see when they are coming in on the streetcar," Alvarez said.

"We don't want to see it empty for long."

Ybor eatery Streetcar Charlie's grinds to a stop 05/25/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 11:22pm]
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