Monday, November 20, 2017
Politics

Well-connected RNC party planner eyes two historic Tampa properties

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — A well-connected party planner who has created hot tickets at the last four Republican National Conventions wants to bring her elaborate warehouse parties to Tampa.

Joyce Gates of Alexandria, Va., this week filed applications with the city of Tampa to host private parties for 600 to 800 people. 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.

Gates, who once served as chief of staff to John Boehner before he became speaker of the House, founded her company, Warehouse Productions, in 1996. At the GOP convention that year, it converted an 1890s-era warehouse into what became known as "The Best Little Warehouse Party in San Diego."

The company went on to produce warehouse parties at Republican conventions in Philadelphia, New York and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

At the 2004 GOP convention in New York, the company re-created street scenes of New York inside Manhattan's once-infamous Tunnel Club for "The Party that Never Sleeps." Picking up the tab were some 68 major corporations and interest groups. That year, Boehner told the Dayton Daily News that he left the "Where the Convention Gets Unconventional" party in Philadelphia at 3:30 a.m. and 500 people were waiting to get in.

Gates could not be reached Friday about whether she's planning two parties or is simply looking at two possible locations for one event.

In her applications, however, she proposes similar events at each all four nights of the convention, which runs from Aug. 27-30. She's planning for 10,000 or more square feet of main event space, plus another 2,500 to 3,000 square feet for use as a jazz club. Festivities would start at 10 p.m., with a requested close of 4 a.m., an hour later than closing time for bars in Tampa.

Buffet catering would be provided by Bernini in Ybor City, and there would be barbecue, beans, slaw and grilled corn from Sharon's Smokin' Angel Foods. The parties would be staffed by 80 people, 10 of them private security, plus three to five off-duty Tampa police.

Warehouse Productions, known for taking rough-hewn industrial spaces and doing all-encompassing build-outs, says it would bring in its own air-conditioning and deluxe portable bathrooms — a 10-stall unit from Royal Restrooms.

Neither the Kress and Woolworth buildings nor the trolley barn are in the official list of event venues for the convention. The Kress and Woolworth buildings are between Franklin Street and Florida Avenue, south of Cass Street.

The trolley barn is on the eastern bank of the Hillsborough River a few blocks north of Interstate 275.

It is, says one longtime fan, a building with a lot of character.

"It's genuine," said Darren Booth, the development manager for a now-defunct redevelopment project. "It's not Disney World. It's a 100-year-old industrial building."

It's also a building with serious flaws, city officials say.

In a letter sent to a convention official on Tuesday — the same day Gates filed her application — Tampa director of planning and development Thomas Snelling said he understood that the convention was interested in using the trolley barn and might even "be able to provide the funding to address many of the code violations and concerns that exist in the building" so that a special event could take place there.

Then Snelling outlined just what that would take.

"The facility has serious and complex code issues and violations that need to be resolved prior to your group applying for a special event," he wrote.

Snelling added that the fire marshal agreed that an event could be staffed with fire marshals on scene to do a "fire watch," but organizers would still need to install a complete fire alarm system.

Until late 2010, the trolley barn had built up a reputation as an attractive venue for big parties.

But the parties ended after the Tampa Fire Marshal's Office inspected and found a range of safety problems.

As of Friday, "the fire issues have not been addressed," Fire Marshal Russell Spicola said.

Also, Snelling said, a licensed engineer would have to do a complete structural evaluation, including assessing the roof and truss system. Once that is done, repairs would have to include repair and replacing of the roof, decking and covering.

The property also would need a temporary wet-zoning to serve alcohol.

"The building has currently been declared unfit for human habitation and was placarded on Aug. 22, 2011," Snelling wrote. "Occupying the building would be a violation until the items mentioned above are addressed."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Comments
Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

Before budget ax fell, Visit Florida executives ran up hefty travel bills

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott’s tourism chiefs at Visit Florida spend a lot of public money taking trips to exotic places to promote Florida as a top worldwide destination.Four former top-level staff members at the state’s tourism promotion and its c...
Updated: 7 hours ago
As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

As clock ticks on tax bill, White House signals a compromise

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said Sunday that the White House is willing to remove a contentious provision taking aim at the Affordable Care Act from the GOP tax overhaul plan if politically necessary, a move ...
Updated: 8 hours ago

Many Christian conservatives are backing Alabama’s Roy Moore

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama’s Christian conservatives see Roy Moore as their champion. He has battled federal judges and castigated liberals, big government, gun control, Muslims, homosexuality and anything else that doesn’t fit the evangelical mold. ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

Senate ethics, relatively silent, could face busy year

WASHINGTON — It’s been nearly six years since the Senate Ethics Committee conducted a major investigation of a sitting senator. Next year, the panel could be working nonstop, deciding the fate of up to three lawmakers, including two facing allegation...
Published: 11/18/17
Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

Hillsborough seeks payback for ethics complaint but history shows that could be pricey

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners recently decided to go after the pocketbooks of several residents who filed unsuccessful ethics complaints against one of their colleagues.If history is any indicator, the maneuver is more likely to cost taxp...
Updated: 8 hours ago
In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

In struggling upstate New York cities, refugees vital to rebirth

UTICA, N.Y.Pat Marino pulled into the shop on a cold, wet Thursday and stood close as a young mechanic with gelled-up hair and earrings lifted the truck and ducked underneath."You need a little bit more oil," the mechanic said."Five quarts wasn’t eno...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/18/17
As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

As sex scandals topple the powerful: Why not Trump?

WASHINGTON — "You can do anything," Donald Trump once boasted, speaking of groping and kissing unsuspecting women. Maybe he could, but not everyone can. The man who openly bragged about grabbing women’s private parts — but denied he really did so — w...
Published: 11/17/17
Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

Allegations against Alabama’s Roy Moore dividing GOP women

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Standing on the white marble steps of Alabama’s Capitol, Kayla Moore surrounded herself with two dozen other women Friday to defend husband Roy Moore against accusations of sexual misconduct that are dividing Republicans, and women...
Published: 11/17/17
Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

Franken apologizes to woman who says he kissed, groped her

WASHINGTON — Minnesota Sen. Al Franken personally apologized to the woman who has accused him of forcibly kissing her and groping her during a 2006 USO tour, saying he remembers their encounter differently but is "ashamed that my actions ruined that ...
Published: 11/17/17
Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

Negative mailers trace back to campaign of state House candidate who denies them

An 87-year-old widow from Melbourne, a mysterious direct mail company in tiny Buffalo, Wyo., and a tangled web of political committees all were linked to the onslaught of negative mailers that helped Lawrence McClure win the Republican primary in Pla...
Published: 11/17/17