SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — Four years ago, Veronica and John Vellines opened a small pub just off Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg, creating an instant buzz by serving handcrafted beer and wine for connoisseurs and the curious.
They've had their eye on Tampa a while and have settled on a former gas station dating to 1935 for a second location of the Independent. They have a contract to buy the building at 5016 N Florida Ave. in Seminole Heights, which now houses a graphic design studio.
Closing is scheduled for next month. The Vellines and the building's current owner are scheduled to go before the City Council next Thursday in hopes of changing the zoning to allow alcohol sales.
The Vellines gained the support of the three area neighborhood associations, after meeting last week to discuss operating hours (to midnight on weeknights and 1 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays) and the couple's business plan. The bar will sell Belgian and German beers, along with specialty microbrews and wines produced from small, independent wineries.
"As of now, we don't know of any opposition," Veronica Vellines said last week. "We're going to try our best to see if there is any before the hearing. ... We have e-mails from a lot of people who are very excited.
"We have wanted to expand to Tampa and noticed that the neighborhood didn't really have a neighborhood spot with good beers. We heard through the grapevine that that was something on the top of people's lists."
The St. Petersburg location of the Independent doesn't serve food, but that will not be the case in Seminole Heights. Vellines said she and her husband have even considered opening for lunch on weekends. At 2,700 square feet, the new Independent will be twice the size of the other one.
"It's going to be a neighborhood gathering place," she said. "We picture people showing up with dogs and kids on the weekend, having a couple of really nice beers, a sandwich. No television; it (will be) more of a meeting and discussion place.
"Our mantra is 'Beer, Wine, Music, Thought.' In this case there will be food, too."
If the zoning change is successful and the purchase goes through, Vellines said she aims for the Independent to open by late summer.
Pizzaiolo Bavaro hopes for Super Bowl start
Dan Bavaro is frantically working to get his new high-end pizza restaurant up and running by Super Bowl Sunday.
He plans to open Pizzaiolo Bavaro at 514 N Franklin St. during the last week of January. The handcrafted custom brick oven, dough mixer, floor tiles and tableware were due to arrive from Naples, Italy, this week.
"We're pushing really hard," said Bavaro, who recently moved to Tampa from New York. "It's a three-month buildout project, and (the contractors) are trying to do it in a month and a half."
Bavaro aims to offer authentic Naples-style pizza to sit-down diners in a 1,200-square-foot space (no slices, no delivery).
Downtown salon will consolidate, update
Kendra and Co., a salon that Kendra Herrington York opened downtown eight years ago, is getting a facelift and a new name.
The salon at 403 W Grand Central Ave. is scheduled to close today for almost two weeks for remodeling. When it reopens it will be known as Kendra Diaz, A Salon on Grand Central. York has partnered with her friend of 23 years, Ronnie Diaz, who has spent 17 years at Styles and Co. on W Cypress Street.
"With this economy, we're merging together and looking to build a great salon," York said. "A lot of salons are folding."
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