It has proved to be a heady menu: burgers, beer and serious hook-ups for the perennially plugged in. The temporary CNN Grill, opened Tuesday in the bottom of a parking garage adjacent to the Tampa Bay Times Forum has WiFi, computer plugs at every table and barstool, an 8-foot John King-esque Magic Wall, a social media wall and all the trappings of 21st century geekery.
This is the third convention for a CNN Grill project, with other similar projects erected for events like the New York City Marathon and the South by Southwest music festival in Austin. But as project director Jill Rooney Carr explains, "It's a hybrid of a catering job and opening a new restaurant."
In the planning for nine months, the 8,500-square-foot restaurant has a menu designed and overseen by New York's Union Square Events, beer from Tampa Bay Brewing Co. (Old Elephant Foot IPA and One Night Pale Ale), 250 seats and four live CNN broadcasts each day of the convention. And on one wall, about as low-tech as it gets, caricatures of CNN talent, executives and, for this convention, a smattering of Tampa Bay luminaries. The sketch artist, imported from Orlando's Universal Studios for the duration, got Mayor Bob Buckhorn's cheeks just right.