Second fire in a week at vacant gay bathhouse in Ybor

Published March 18 2017
Updated March 18 2017

TAMPA — For the second time in a week, a fire broke out at a vacant gay bathhouse in Ybor City early Saturday.

The March 11 fire caused $100,000 in damage and was ruled an arson, but no arrests have been made. Saturday's fire started about 3 a.m., said Tampa Fire Chief Thomas Forward.

When crews arrived to the scene at 1512 E Eighth Ave., they saw smoke and flames coming through the building's windows, Forward said. But it was not until 20 minutes later that a second alarm for more units was called.

By early morning, firefighters said they were working to keep the fire inside Ybor Resort & Spa, but were worried about it spreading to neighboring businesses. There were no reported injuries, and the fire was under control by 7 a.m.

On its Facebook page, the spa is described as Tampa Bay's only "fully gay owned and gay operated private men's club, resort (and) bathhouse," but the page has been mostly inactive for months.

In an email to the Tampa Bay Times, former owner Vincent Pawlowski wrote that he had sold the building on Feb. 8 and closed the business at the end of that month. Pawlowski said he turned over the keys to the new owners on March 8.

The hotel opened in 2009, catering to gay men. It included a club with a darkened maze room and other "intimacy zones.'' The courtyard included a 50-man hot tub.

In 2012, Ybor Resort & Spa made headlines for inviting delegates visiting Tampa for the Republican National Convention free access to the facilities.

Investigators said last week's fire was started after one or more people broke into the building and set fires at multiple locations.

Anyone with information about the fires was asked to call the fire marshal's office at (813) 274-7000.

Contact Sara DiNatale at Follow @sara_dinatale.