YBOR CITY — Standing in the dusty debris of a historic former hardware store, Kevin Lilly picks up a rusty wall-mounted coffee grinder sitting on a short wall of ancient red bricks. According to the experts he's consulted, this model hasn't been produced for more than 100 years. This one could date all the way back to 1870.
"Found it in the dirt, bro," he said. "Just two inches below the dirt."
There's a lot of history buried here at 1901 15th St. N in Ybor City, the future home of the Attic, a concert venue, cocktail bar and brewery scheduled to open next spring — permits pending, that is.
"We're literally minutes from construction," Lilly said. "We're just waiting on the city."
Well, yes — inserting one of Ybor City's most ambitious entertainment venues into a 120-year-old building doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't come without challenges, such as completely updating its plumbing and water.
Originally, Lilly and partner Tony Casoria had hoped to open the Attic by the end of 2015, even booking several "grand opening"-type concerts there for December. The first, a solo show by Better Than Ezra singer Kevin Griffin, was scheduled for Thursday, but has been moved to the Cuban Club nearby. Others have been moved or postponed until the venue is complete.
Everyone involved is hoping the Attic will be worth the wait. Lilly and Casoria, co-owners of St. Petersburg-based Attic Records, want the intimate upstairs concert venue, which should have a capacity of about 175, to have a pristine, "VH1 Storytellers set," Lilly said, more like the Hideaway Café in St. Petersburg than anything in Hillsborough County.
Downstairs, a huge, empty space visible from the street will house Rock Brothers Brewing, which has made national waves for its line of craft beers produced by Cigar City Brewing for rock bands like 311, Hootie and the Blowfish and Umphrey's McGee. (Tampa Bay drinkers might be more familiar with Florida-centric brews like JJ Grey's Nare Sugar Brown and Have Gun, Will Travel's High Road Ale. But all Rock Brothers beers, even those not yet available in Florida, are expected to be on tap at the Attic.) The brewery will be able to produce up to 9,000 barrels a year, and have the flexibility to create more seasonal or limited-run beers.
An adjacent room will host a cocktail bar modeled in many ways after St. Petersburg's Mandarin Hide, which Casoria co-owns. Lilly said the menu will feature cocktails made with Rock Brothers beers.
At the moment, the Attic looks a long, long way from completion, with its floors of dust, dirt, pebbles and bric-a-brac. But Lilly said they hope to preserve as much of the building's historic brick character as possible — such as a massive antique freight elevator that will be incorporated into an upstairs bar.
And soon, owners hope to bring in former Tampa mayor Dick Greco for a walk-through and video interview. The building, you see, was once known as King-Greco Hardware. This was Greco's family's business and childhood home.
The Attic has been such a time-consuming enterprise that it has taken their focus away from other enterprises. For example: WhigFest, a music festival that takes place each February in and around Jannus Live, might not happen in 2016, Lilly said, so organizers can focus on the Attic.
"We're doing something extremely big this year in this format, and we need to focus on it," Lilly said. "Right out of the gate, we want to do everything 100 percent right."
Contact Jay Cridlin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.