Sunday, May 20, 2018
Politics

Ybor and Channelside big winners so far in RNC bookings

With just more than five weeks until 50,000 delegates, politicians, journalists and protesters descend on the Tampa Bay area for the Republican National Convention, many restaurants and attractions are booked already and will be closed to the public.

The Tampa Bay History Center, which will host Fox News for the GOP's biggest party, will be closed to the general public from Aug. 21 to Sept. 1. Others will be closed for a narrower window, but the list is growing: Neither the Mahaffey Theater nor the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts has scheduled public shows or concerts during the convention, the latter hosting Jon Stewart's the Daily Show.

The Glazer Children's Museum will close its doors to host Newsweek, the Daily Beast, the Lifetime network and others. The Florida Aquarium is booked Aug. 26-30, the Tampa Theatre will close its doors, and businesses from Jackson's Bistro to Channelside Cinemas will not be open for regular business.

Many venues have signed confidentiality agreements for security reasons, complicating the task of identifying what will be open and which groups will be in temporary residence at which venues.

According to Tiffany Davies, director of marketing and events at Millennium Management Group, which includes four properties at Channelside (Stump's Supper Club, Tinatapa's, Howl at the Moon and Splitsville), her group has 16 to 20 bookings split between the four properties, with brunches, lunches and other parties. Because of nondisclosure agreements, she says, she can't reveal who they are.

And beyond what's already booked, she says, "We are anticipating a lot of activity at Channelside, but not from locals. We anticipate a lot of walk-in business from media."

This sentiment has been echoed by a number of other Channelside businesses. Robert Fisher, general manager of Hooters, will be "staffing up like it's five Super Bowls in a row," and others, such as Taverna Opa and Channelside Cinemas are already fully booked by RNC events. Feel like getting a gander at Glenn Beck or tea partiers like Christine O'Donnell? You'll find them here.

Maryann Ferenc, co-owner of Mise en Place and a host committee member, agrees that Channelside will be the center of much activity.

"Channelside for obvious reasons, as well as Ybor City, which is the city's most well-known entertainment district. It makes sense. Frankly, those are both areas that know how to do this, how to market themselves as a venue."

Confirmed bookings corroborate her guess: At least a dozen Ybor City restaurants, bars and clubs have been booked for official and unofficial events, some booked solid from Aug. 27 to Aug. 30.

Jason Fernandez's Carne Chophouse may have been the first venue to be fully booked, with the National Journal and Atlantic magazine taking over this new Ybor City restaurant for the duration. His flagship restaurant Bernini is also booked, with additional contracts and catering jobs still pending. He thinks, as with the 2009 Super Bowl, Ybor City will be swamped.

"This is the layman's analysis. When the Super Bowl was here it brought 25,000 to 30,000 people. You couldn't walk down the streets — they'll have to be closed for the RNC, too. Everyone will be in Ybor, during the day and late at night," he said, adding that fellow Ybor business owners are preparing for an onslaught of people, planning expanded hours until 3 a.m. to maximize profits.

Ferenc thinks that the third area that will be inundated with RNC business is right downtown.

"If you're coming to the convention, you're coming to downtown. The after-11 p.m. crowd is going to hang out downtown. There's a ton of business that happens after 11. As a member of the tourism industry, I hope local businesses keep their doors open."

According to James Davis, communications director and chief spokesman of the 2012 Republican National Convention, it's still a little early for all RNC venue bookings to be nailed down.

"Many delegations have just appointed their delegates and therefore they are just making plans. Media just received their hotel assignments, so now they can get more deeply involved in finalizing plans. This convention has more official venues than we've had in any previous convention. We have more venues, with several hundred requests, and thus more combinations, so it takes time to go through those."

Aug. 1 is the date by which the 76 official venues are released from their agreement with the Committee on Arrangements, which organizes and manages the RNC. Most official venues will finalize their plans by that date, but there are dozens more unofficial venues that will host corporations, lobbying groups, Super PACs and other RNC-related events.

So which Tampa neighborhoods are likely to be free of RNC fervor?

While South Howard and Hyde Park restaurants and bars have booked very little at this time, owners anticipate some late-night walk-in business.

It's Pinellas County venues, from downtown St. Petersburg to the gulf beaches, that have heard little from RNC planners, despite the fact that a number of delegations will be housed in Pinellas County hotels. Venues from Push Ultra Lounge to the St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts have had nibbles, but nothing has yet gone to contract.

Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293.

Comments
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Updated: 10 hours ago
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18