CHANNELSIDE — Robert Solomon had hoped his new Channelside nightclub would open by the first quarter of 2008, but he figures hosting Super Bowl parties nearly a year later won't be the worst way for his club to make its debut.
Famed entertainers DJ AM and Jazzy Jeff, Pamela Anderson and a bunch of NFL players will be among those making appearances at Solomon's club Aja (pronounced "Asia") during Super Bowl weekend. After two years of planning, the club likely will open just days before.
Solomon says the wait was worth it. The intricate design by Solomon's architect friend Kirk Blaschke, who studied under the legendary Frank Gehry, took time to realize. The $4.24-million project in the Towers of Channelside at 290 S Meridian Ave., financed by Solomon and partner Michael Hamilton, has 8,000 square feet of sleek, modern interior on two levels, with an additional 3,000 square feet outside.
"It's a very ambitious project," Solomon said. "We had to bring in specialists for all the things we wanted to achieve."
The highly customized space was planned well before the economy took a nosedive, Solomon said, but it was completed according to Blaschke's designs.
"This is the way it has to be," he said. "That's the best way to say it. I think Tampa's a great city. The people have not been spoiled enough. They need to be spoiled. They need to have something that is truly at a New York-LA-Miami-type level."
Aja will be open six nights a week. Details of the club's opening will be posted online at www.ajachannelside.com.
Ocean Prime dining in prime location
Another upscale spot will open just in time for the Super Bowl: Ocean Prime, from the creators of Mitchell's Fish Market. What general manager Brandon Davis calls "our version of a modern American supper club," is in a new building on the International Plaza property at 2205 N West Shore Blvd.
This will be the sixth Ocean Prime location for parent company Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, which opened a Mitchell's Fish Market nearby in 2006 before selling the chain to another company. Ocean Prime quietly opens Jan. 20 or 21 with a grand opening scheduled for Jan. 23.
The 8,500-square-foot restaurant specializes in steaks and seafood and will feature live music nightly. Everything will be made from scratch on site, Davis said, including ice cream.
"We understand what our guests want and are passionate about delivering an unparalleled dining experience," he said.
Hours at Ocean Prime will be 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11:30 to 11 Friday and Saturday, and 11:30 to 9 on Sunday. The bar will keep later hours, Davis said.
Guests can cut loose in a ShutterBooth
Every detail was top-of-the-line at Monique Turley's cousin's wedding in Michigan, but what seemed to attract the guests' attention was a small, black-curtained box set up in the back of the room.
The box was a ShutterBooth, a 3-by-7-foot portable mini studio designed to snap and instantly print photos of the wedding guests. The booth was such a hit that shortly after she returned to Tampa, Turley looked into getting a ShutterBooth of her own.
Turley and her fiance, Tyrus Woods, are the first Florida franchisees of ShutterBooth, a national company (www.shutterbooth.com) that provides instant photo services for weddings, parties and other events. At weddings, the service is meant to complement, not replace, the photographer or videographer, Turley said.
The booths take four photos per session and makes prints within 30 seconds. As many as 10 people can squeeze into the booth at once.
"As soon as you close that curtain, something happens," Turley said. "It brings out their true personalities."
Prices vary, but a four-hour rental with a booth attendant starts at about $900; or about $1,250 for six hours. A bride and groom can arrange to have an extra copy of each photo strip put into a scrapbook that is ready by the end of the event.
"People like instant gratification," Turley said. "With ShutterBooth they get that."
The couple can be contacted at (813) 600-3636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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