FAIR OAKS/MANHATTAN MANOR — Even lower-than-average ticket prices weren't enough to keep the Britton 8 movie theaters afloat in a tough economy.
Zota Theatres LLC, which operated in Britton Plaza at 3938 S Dale Mabry for six years, shut Britton 8's doors last week, laying off 11 employees. The company had a month-to-month lease at the retail plaza and decided the outlook was too grim to continue, said Zota chief operating officer Tony Koudouna.
"We've noticed over the past several years, when you look at the performance, during the summer months and holidays it would do well, but other times it was a lower performer," Koudouna said.
"It just wasn't going to go any further, and it didn't make any sense for us to continue. We weren't seeing prospective growth."
The Britton 8 theaters were known for their low prices ($7.75 evenings, $6 matinees) compared with newer area theaters with stadium seating and more lavish lobbies.
The company has one other theater, in Brooksville, which remains open. The concept of the so-called traditional theater works better in areas with less competition, Koudouna said.
He said he has a fondness for Britton Plaza. A South Tampa native, he worked there in high school.
He would like to see another company transform the movieplex into a dinner-and-a-movie, bar-and-grill type concept.
But there is no wet zoning for the space, said Chris Overloop, who handles Britton Plaza for Clearwater-based property manager Bruce Strumpf Inc.
"We're not thinking about putting a bar in there," he said. "At this point we're looking for anything" that would work for the space, Overloop said.
Overloop said word has gotten out among theater companies that the site is available.
New Italian restaurant
The creators of Ciccio and Tony's and three other S Howard Avenue spots plan to open a midrange Italian restaurant by the end of the year.
Details are sketchy, said James Lanza, who founded Ciccio and Tony's with Jeff Gigante and Luis Flores 12 years ago, followed by Water, Daily Eats and Lime. They still have work to do on the concept. But "we love trying new concepts on Howard Avenue," Lanza said. "People are very receptive to what we do."
The as-yet-unnamed restaurant at 516 S Howard will be "casual, fun, with a big bar," Lanza said. Brick oven pizza will be part of the plan. "We're shooting for the best pizza in Tampa," he said.
Parking will be plentiful. The building has 45 parking spaces, and more will be leased nearby. The exterior will change, and the interior will be completely redecorated. "It's a phenomenal space," Lanza said.
The location has had its share of turnover.
The former site of 42nd Street Bistro, the building has seen three unsuccessful concepts in less than 18 months: Chateau France, Chateau SoHo and recently Manny's Bistro.
A little clip and a sip
A wet zoning designation for a hair salon and spa may seem unusual, but Elizabeth Graham said she is just trying to keep up with the times.
"Today's day spa isn't yesterday's hair salon," Graham said. "We do bachelorette parties, we do wedding parties. It's more of a social gathering."
Graham's Forever Beautiful Salon and Spa, at 5135 N Florida Ave. in Seminole Heights, recently received a wet zoning designation from Tampa to sell and serve beer and wine, both on and off site. The petition was submitted at the same time that Graham and her husband, Michael, sought full wet zoning for their year-old restaurant, Bungalow Bistro, next door.
"By no means am I going to be a convenience store," Elizabeth Graham said. The idea, she said, is to be able to sell a variety of beverages to bridal parties or other groups. The salon may also host art shows and wine tastings, and probably will begin selling gift baskets with bottles of wine or champagne.
"I'm really looking forward to having fun with it," Graham said.
Do you know something that should be everybody's business? Call (813) 226-3394 or e-mail [email protected]