Raw Sushi in Ybor calls it quits

Raw Sushi and Sake Lounge introduced its sophisticated concept in November 2007 but has already closed.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Raw Sushi and Sake Lounge introduced its sophisticated concept in November 2007 but has already closed.

YBOR CITY — The club music has stopped, the neon lights are off and the idea of people eating sushi in beds has, well, been put to bed.

After only a few months on Ybor City's main strip, Raw Sushi and Sake Lounge left the building at 1919 E Seventh Ave. vacant — again.

"We couldn't save it," owner Bob Volini said. "As much as we tried and as much as we personally subsidized, it just wasn't working."

Raw opened in November 2007 and came fully equipped with a trendy setting that replicated downtown Tokyo: sushi, a full bar and sake lounge, and half a dozen beds for dining.

It is the third sushi restaurant to occupy and then leave the building, after Sushi on Seventh and Sushi Extreme.

Future plans for the former Raw building were unclear last week. The landlord could not be reached.

The Tampa Realtor turned first-time restaurateur said business was steady for a few months but quickly waned. The doors closed for good in late March, Volini said.

"Nobody came in no matter what we tried," he said.

He said his family has taken a $70,000 loss after the brief stint in the restaurant business.

Court documents reveal financial woes. Former Raw employee Seamus Easterly is suing Volini for nonpayment of wages. Easterly said he fulfilled his obligation to work for two months, which he said was outlined in a November 2007 contract.

"Since I left, there are a lot of people who have had a lot of the same problems that I experienced personally," Easterly said. "It was a nice place that had an opportunity."

Volini says Easterly asked for and received a cash advance of $600 in January and then quit the same night. He said Easterly had a six-month contract.

"You breached your own contract by quitting," he said last week about Easterly.

The Volinis are also dealing with the foreclosure of two residential properties they own, as well as two other financial lawsuits. He said debt from the restaurant caused him to get behind on other bills.

They have since turned their full attention to Total Home Source, a realty company his wife owns. The couple are moving the office from Brandon to South Tampa, closer to their Palma Ceia home.

Volini said his run as a restaurant owner cost him 22 pounds and thousands of dollars.

"I tried to put something special together, but what I wasn't expecting was for it to cost me the kind of money it did," he said.

The building is for sale for almost $1-million.

One lesson he has learned: "It's a full-time, fully dedicated, 24-hour-a-day business. But we'll bounce back."

Reach Eric Smithers at esmithers@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3339.

Raw Sushi in Ybor calls it quits 06/26/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 2, 2008 4:41pm]

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