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Investors group may buy and renovate Jannus Landing

Here's how the Jannus Landing courtyard could look sometime in 2010:

• A capacity of 2,000 or more for concerts, up from about 1,500 at the moment.

• A tiki bar, new restrooms, a new stage and a permanent roof above the performance area, plus VIP suites throughout.

• An upscale sushi and sake lounge in place of the adjacent Tamiami Bar, plus a renovated version of the Detroit Liquors store.

Can it happen? Maybe, if Jeff Knight gets his way.

"Our goal is definitely to make Jannus Landing better than it's ever been," Knight said. "We think that's the premier entertainment spot in Tampa Bay."

Knight is leading a group of investors seeking to buy Jannus Landing, which has been quiet after a summer of lost concerts and business. The deal would give Knight and company freedom to reinvent the courtyard — plus Detroit Liquors, the Tamiami and possibly the Pelican Pub — as a more upscale, cosmopolitan destination.

Any potential deal can't come until at least next week. That's when a judge is scheduled to hear an eviction lawsuit filed by St. Pete Jannus Inc. — the company that owns the property on which all four businesses sit — against venue owner John C. "Jack" Bodziak, who has been charged with owing the state $250,000 in back sales tax. Tony Amico, a principal owner of St. Pete Jannus Inc., alleges Bodziak owes more than $160,000 in unpaid rent, and in July filed to evict.

Amico's attorney, Jonathan Damonte, said that to his knowledge, Knight is the only investor in talks to buy the properties.

"We would be happy if someone came in and took over the properties," Damonte said. "I would imagine if we get the Bodziak issues resolved and we enter into a new agreement with Knight, then obviously Knight would probably have a pretty fair amount of latitude to be able to do what he wanted to do."

Knight, 47, owns Knight Enterprises, a cable and telecommunications company in Clearwater, and has owned and developed a number of properties around Tampa Bay. He co-owns Middle Grounds Grill in Treasure Island.

Knight said he's hammering out a long-term lease with Amico, and could move forward with the purchase as soon as Bodziak's case is resolved.

Neither Bodziak nor Amico could be reached for comment.

Knight says his investment group has raised more than $1 million. "We're making significant investments into sound, light and entertainment."

Jannus Landing's last scheduled concert took place Oct. 9. Detroit Liquors has been closed for weeks for renovations.

If Knight's group does take over, downtown business owners say it can't come soon enough. Quinn Duffy, owner of Joey Brooklyn's pizza, estimates business has gone down 40 percent at shops, bars and restaurants adjoining Jannus Landing.

"There should be four, five shows a month that sell out, and have 1,500 people in there," Duffy said. "I'm praying every day: Please, somebody, come in here and fix this mess."

Times researcher Caryn Baird and staff writer Jamal Thalji contributed to this report.

Investors group may buy and renovate Jannus Landing 10/19/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 19, 2009 11:36pm]
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