A popular Ybor City nightclub that closed in 2007 and reopened under new management and different names is reinventing itself again, this time as Club Tantra.
The former club Amphitheater, most recently called Club 360 and Pop Lounge and Theater, plans to reopen later this month after major renovations.
Mike Kavallierakis and Steve and Ignatios Boukalis took over the club at 1609 E Seventh Ave. in early March. The trio also is developing an upscale nightclub on Franklin Street in downtown Tampa called the Plaza.
Club 360 and Pop closed after the Sant'Yago Illuminated Knight Parade on Feb. 14. Owner Frankie Rodriguez said this week he couldn't afford rent and expenses associated with running a 12,000-square-foot club.
"The main thing was the economy,'' he said. "Ybor used to get 20,000 people a weekend. Now they are getting maybe 3,000 or 4,000 people. When you have a small amount to pull from, it's difficult.''
Rodriguez said he had built a sizable following and drew 600 to 900 people on Saturday nights, but it wasn't enough. The crowd got younger, and the people who frequented Ybor in its heyday got older and stopped going out as much.
Rodriguez reopened the Amphitheater as the Ybor Amphitheater in November 2007. A few months later, he changed it to Club 360 and added Pop on the second floor to lure an older crowd. He also tried to get away from the hip-hop format, but it didn't sit well with clubgoers, he said.
"I brought in the old Amphitheater DJs and dancers. I was trying to do exactly what was there before, but Ybor has changed so much,'' he said. "The days of a club having 2,000 people a night are over.''
The original Amphitheater opened in 1998 and, for a while, was the busiest dance club and music venue in Ybor, attracting world-class guest DJs, such as Crystal Method and Tommy Lee.
Then, in spring 2007, owner John Santoro abruptly closed it, citing financial reasons. Jason Accardi, of Seven One Seven Parking Services, bought it later that year for $1.29 million and owns it with Joseph Capitano Sr., a longtime Ybor businessman. Capitano knew Kavallierakis from the original Amphitheater and approached him about leasing it long-term.
Kavallierakis was the Amphitheater's technical director and says he knows what worked and can work again. He named the club Club Tantra after the provocative parties once held there.
He and his partners, whose family owns JB Factory Carpet, plan to bring back live concerts and DJs and elements of surprise that the Amphitheater was known for, such as midget ID checkers at the door. They've repaired and resurfaced the famous revolving dance floor and are updating the interior.
Likely attractions will include naked sushi models and chocolate fountains. Hip-hop will be out; cage dancers will be in.
"We're going to bring back the Amphitheater magic,'' he said.