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Plant City's Red Rose Inn closes

PLANT CITY — The Red Rose Inn & Suites is staying closed after all.

The longtime fixture at State Road 39 and Interstate 4 abruptly closed Sunday after brunch service, but by Monday it seemed the opulent inn wouldn't stay closed for long.

After a meeting with Red Rose owners Evelyn and Batista Madonia, longtime friend David Page said the Red Rose might reopen by 5 p.m.

Page said the couple reconsidered and talked of reopening to accommodate folks with reservations and groups that had booked the banquet hall.

That idea fizzled by mid afternoon, though. A reservationist at the inn said the hotel was staying closed "indefinitely," and that the Madonias reiterated their plans to keep it closed in another meeting with Page.

The closure, which surprised many in the community, followed the death of the couple's daughter, Laurie E. Madonia, 50, last month from cancer.

"It's been a very difficult time," said Page, who said he has known the Madonias nearly 50 years.

A retired hotel owner from Indianapolis, Page said he was called in to work as a temporary general manager while the couple mourned their eldest daughter, who died April 25 at Moffitt Cancer Center. A funeral was held May 1 in Lakeland.

Page, who arrived Saturday, said he anticipated staying for a few days, or until the Madonias felt up to taking an active role in the business again.

Matt Buzza, chairman of the Plant City Chamber of Commerce, said it was more surprising to hear the hotel was reopening after rumors circulated last week that it might close for several weeks or months.

But by 3 p.m. any plans for a quick turnaround had been abruptly nixed.

The hotel has become as much a fixture in Plant City as the Madonias themselves.

Over the years, Evelyn Madonia appeared in scores of TV ads, often decked out in a sequined ballroom gown and elbow-length gloves, touting the hotel at SR 39 and I-4 — Plant City's gateway.

The Madonias, from Erie, Pa., purchased the 261-room property in 2003 and immediately began a $4 million renovation to transform it into an opulent showpiece dripping with old Southern charm.

It soon became a go-to meeting place for banquets, weddings and charity events. It also built a reputation for shows featuring doo-wop and rock music from the 1950s and '60s.

Business seemed to be returning to normal by late morning. Although doors to the lobby were locked and the lights were turned off, hotel staff could be seen at the reservation desk.

Page said a handful of customers still staying at the hotel on Sunday night were permitted to remain through the closure.

"There's no reason really why it should close," he said Monday morning. "The place looks great."

Page, however, could not be reached at the hotel Monday afternoon after plans to reopen had been scrapped.

Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com.

Plant City's Red Rose Inn closes 05/21/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 21, 2012 10:19pm]
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