TAMPA — As protesters rally a few blocks away during the Republican National Convention, Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park stands to become home to an exclusive pop-up nightclub featuring private concerts as well as cigar, scotch and video game lounges.
Jamestown Entertainment of Washington, D.C., is partnering with the Butter Group of New York to create a Tampa version of the 1 OAK nightclubs found in Manhattan and at the Mirage Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.
"I think it will be a pretty nice little thing," convention spokesman James Davis said, confirming the RNC had released the park to Jamestown Entertainment.
Little? Not a chance.
The private club is expected to have room for 2,000 partygoers in a 30,000-square-foot, air-conditioned temporary facility. The main stage and concert space would be flanked by smaller areas that will be lounges by night and sites for delegate events, policy luncheons and receptions by day.
"We couldn't be more thrilled," Jamestown Entertainment spokeswoman Courtney Cohen said of the location, which has panoramic views of the Hillsborough River and the minarets of the University of Tampa. "This is the ideal space for us. We consider this the prime spot."
Jamestown Entertainment this week applied for a city permit to set up the venue at Curtis Hixon park and the neighboring Kiley Garden, which the city agreed nearly two years ago to turn over to the convention for private social events.
When word got out recently that the city's crown jewel park would be closed to the public the week of Aug. 27-30, some protest groups grumbled. But Mayor Bob Buckhorn said it was a good way to show off the riverfront as worldwide attention is focused on Tampa.
"I hope they have a lot of great parties there," Buckhorn said.
Count on it, Jamestown Entertainment said this week.
"This will be the place to see and be seen during the RNC," company president Freddie Wyatt said in an announcement. "We're here to make politics cool."
Jamestown Entertainment produced a big party at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver and has worked for years on extravagant parties around Washington.
This year, Jamestown Entertainment and Butter will be doing pop-up nightclubs in Tampa and Charlotte, N.C., the host for the Democratic National Convention.
"This is a completely new experience," Cohen said, one that is "taking the typical convention reception and updating it and turning it on its head."
In Tampa, 1 OAK is expected to be active from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and is booked with events every day of the convention. The events will be invitation-only, but Cohen said the venue should be ready by Aug. 24 — a Friday — and the company would love to work with a local charity on an event to benefit the community.
The company's application requests closing one lane of Ashley Drive, which is expected to be one of the routes used by the 400 charter buses that will carry delegates to and from the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Setup would begin a week before the convention, and temporary facilities would be gone by Labor Day, the Monday after the convention.
Jamestown Entertainment is not the only high-end event production company to apply for city permits to create its own party space during the convention.
Last month, a well-connected D.C.-area party planner who has created hot tickets at the last four Republican National Conventions applied for city permits to bring her elaborate warehouse parties to Tampa.
Joyce Gates, who once served as chief of staff to John Boehner before he became speaker of the House, has proposed hosting private parties for 600 to 800 people all four nights of the convention.
For a site, she's looking at two historic properties — the old trolley barn near Tampa Heights and the Kress and Woolworth buildings in downtown Tampa. She envisions creating 10,000 or more square feet of main event space, plus another 2,500 to 3,000 square feet for a jazz club.
And a third event planner also is scouting the RNC party scene in Tampa. A Canadian company, Regal Tent Productions, recently said it was working with American Event Consulting in Washington on plans for a two-story, temporary structure that could serve as a concert venue or pop-up nightclub for 3,500 people.
So far, no site has been announced.
Jamestown Entertainment is using a different vendor, Karl's Event Services, for its temporary facility, but Cohen said the scope and detail of the project should impress locals and visitors alike.
"Your city is hosting what is really a unique event in democracy," she said, "and it's worthy of a great party."
Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.