Ybor Knight Parade not a good fit with Valentine's, some say

TAMPA — Beads, booze and a bawdy night parade might seem an odd pairing with Valentine's Day romance, but businesses in Ybor City were split Saturday night as to whether it was a successful one.

The Krewe of Sant'Yago Knight Parade roared through Ybor Saturday, traveling from Seventh Avenue to 20th Street and to Palm Avenue.

Whether the traffic or thousands of revelers hurt Valentine's dining in the entertainment district, however, is unclear, as area restaurateurs reported mixed results.

One accident did mar the event. A member of the Krewe of Venus was taken to Tampa General Hospital after falling off a float near the end of the parade late Saturday, but friends said he was talking and responsive.

Back on the parade route, meanwhile, the shouts of spectators, the beer in the street and the quest for beads blended with restaurants serving up Valentine's dinners. Some were pleased.

"We have double reservations," said Costa Waez, owner of Acropolis Greek Taverna.

Acropolis is on the 1800 block of E Seventh Avenue, right along the parade route. He said all traditional Ybor events tend to help business, and that minor inconveniences haven't hampered the Valentine's spirit.

"The biggest concern is the parking. That's it. Other than that, everything is good."

At Cafe L'Olivier, tables were booked solid, bringing the restaurant near capacity for the first time since its grand opening three weeks ago, said partner Olivier Cuevas.

"We're very excited about tonight," he said, explaining that the festivities drew patrons to his Seventh Avenue restaurant. "For us, the night parade has been a stimulus."

Other restaurant owners say the parade cuts into business.

Bernini, on Seventh Avenue, stands to lose up to 75 percent of Valentine's sales, said owner Jason Fernandez. He expects the restaurant to take in $5,000 rather than the $20,000 typical of the holiday.

"It's a deterrent," he said of the parade, calling its timing "a poor decision" on the part of event planners.

Owners of the Columbia Restaurant recently said they are happy that the parade route didn't reach the restaurant's premises this year, as the procession makes parking burdensome. (Columbia owners Richard and Casey Gonzmart last year quit the Krewe of the Knights of Sant'Yago, which organizes the parade. The krewe said the Gonzmarts' departure had nothing to do with the route change that moved the parade away from the Columbia).

Parade attendees certainly didn't lose their appetite for Valentine's Day amid the electric-blue Jell-O shots, frothy beer and blaring music, however.

"It's more interesting," said Homosassa resident Regina Zomboli, comparing the parade with typical Valentine's activities. She said that she and her husband, John, usually go to dinner or dancing, but decided to make their first trip to the parade for the beads.

"It's like, we have to go. We have to go at least once while I still look good."

Mike and Julie Mularz of St. Petersburg are longtime veterans of the night parade, and wore matching red-and-black pirate getups to the festivities.

Mike said the crowd was a little thinner than normal, but that the parade was a good choice for a Valentine's night out. He also said they didn't think too much about the parade's new route this year because they mainly stick to Seventh.

"This is a party," he said, his shoulder capped with a blue-and-gold Macaw named Spike. "This is for the adults."

Most parade watchers were unaware of the float accident about 9:30 p.m. at Nuccio Parkway near Palm Avenue. A man who was walking on the running board of the Krewe of Venus float fell off and hit his head, krewe members said. The man, whom they identified as Rocky Ellingson, was talking and responsive when he left by ambulance for the hospital, which krewe captain Steve Myers said was a precaution.

Times staff writer Robbyn Mitchell contributed to this report.

Ybor Knight Parade not a good fit with Valentine's, some say 02/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 14, 2009 11:43pm]

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