Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Public safety

Police investigate late-night bomb blast at Radio Bar and Grill in Tampa

TAMPA — Someone opened up a back door Wednesday night and threw a bomb inside Radio Bar and Grill on Busch Boulevard, blowing doors off their hinges, coating the floor with shattered glass and sending one person to the hospital.

Tampa police were still investigating the incident Thursday as the bar's management and staff gathered to assess the damage.

"We're just trying to figure out who would try to come in here and kill us," said Robert "Hoff" Hoffa, a disc jockey for the bar's on-site radio station. "We don't have any enemies here."

Hoffa had just finished his regular Wednesday night country music show when the blast happened about 10:30 p.m., he said.

Someone opened the back door of the small building, which stands two blocks west of Busch Gardens, and tossed in the device, Hoffa said.

Police described the bomb as a "homemade crude device."

The explosion sounded like a truck slammed into the building, Hoffa said. People were thrown off their feet. The restroom doors were blown out of their frames. Inch-thick glass surrounding the DJ booth shattered and rained down to the floor.

A patron at the bar, Wilson C. Rodriguez, 53, was later taken to the hospital complaining of chest pains, police said. He and one of the bar's employees were the only ones in the building at the time of the blast, police said. No one was seriously injured.

The explosion knocked out three high-dollar computer servers the station used to stay on the air, Hoffa said. The total property damage to the station alone was between $5,000 and $10,000, he said.

Hoffa said police bomb squad officers collected the remnants of the device for forensic testing. He said it was made of cardboard and filled with some kind of black powder.

Asked if he had any idea who was responsible for the explosion, Hoffa declined to comment.

Detectives believe the crime was not random, officials said Thursday. They continued to work through the day to determine why the bar was targeted. They did not name any suspects.

According to SunBiz, the bar is owned by Leslie D. Brewer of Temple Terrace.

This isn't the first time violence has happened at this location. In June 2009, when the building housed the Picadilly Sports Bar, 30-year-old patron Stephanie Butler was shot to death after she confronted two men who came inside and waved a gun. The unidentified men fled in a sport utility vehicle, leaving Butler to die on the floor. The case remains open and unsolved, police said.

Since then, records show that the business changed ownership. Radio Bar and Grill opened there 18 months ago, Hoffa said. It operates as both a restaurant and a live radio station, broadcasting country and rock music on 102.1 FM and online. It has served as a venue for several country and rock bands. The bar has also held special events to raise money for cancer research and other charitable causes, Hoffa said.

As employees gathered early Thursday morning to clean up the blast debris, they struggled to figure out how they would stay on track with planned events and keep the business going.

Despite the damage, Hoffa said, management and employees were grateful no one was killed.

"We're definitely replacing everything that's broken," he said. "But life is not replaceable."

 
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