The Clearwater Downtown Partnership, a volunteer group dedicated to making downtown more vibrant, held its annual awards ceremony on Wednesday night. It produced four nuggets of news involving a historic theater, several new restaurants, the Tampa Bay Rays and a longtime restaurant owner.
Capitol Theatre: Ruth Eckerd Hall, which operates this venue at 403 Cleveland St., is seeking $3.8 million in federal stimulus money to help pay for a major renovation of the 1920s-era building. Ruth Eckerd and Clearwater officials are working with local U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis and C.W. Bill Young on this, and they'll learn in three to five months whether they've been successful, said Robert Freedman, Ruth Eckerd's president and CEO. If they get the federal funds, Ruth Eckerd will fast-track its plans to raise more money for renovations and an endowment to operate the theater.
New restaurants: City Councilman Paul Gibson announced that three more restaurants will open in the next six months.Divino's, an Italian fine-dining restaurant, will open next month at 22 N Fort Harrison Ave., where the Majestic Lounge nightspot closed in 2007. Bellini Restaurant, a popular Italian place on Dunedin's Main Street, will open a second location at the former site of Fiore's Gourmet Deli at 811 Cleveland St. And an intimate French restaurant, La Cachette, will close its Indian Rocks Beach location and move to Cleveland Street in October.
Angie Chaconas: The longtime owner of Angie's Restaurant at 725 Cleveland St. was presented with a humanitarian award for feeding hundreds of homeless people at her diner every Thanksgiving. Chaconas, 74, told the crowd that she grew up amid hardships in Greece during World War II: "My stomach was never full, and I would go to bed hungry." She said she feeds people on Thanksgiving to thank God for delivering her family to this land of opportunity.
Fourth Friday: The Partnership will continue holding its monthly "Fourth Friday" street parties, which bring 1,500 to 2,000 people downtown. Next Friday's event, on May 22, will be a "Rays Watch Party" with Rays radio pregame and postgame host Rich Herrera on the scene and the Rays Street Team bringing inflatable games and giveaways. It'll be 5:30 to 10 p.m. in the 500 and 600 blocks of Cleveland Street