Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Young pair snag a six-pack of World of Beer pubs

Philippe Theodore was familiar with World of Beer. The pub was in the Westchase neighborhood where he lived, and he helped the owners with an annual golf tournament.

Jason Rappaport came upon World of Beer by happenstance. He was in the area for a business meeting and later stopped by the establishment.

Both Theodore and Rappaport thought having their own pub was a great idea. Each had independently inquired about the possibility of franchising a World of Beer, which has 500 beers from all over the world.

They saw opportunity in the down economy.

"Being friends, we were just talking one day and the idea came up," Rappaport, 31, said of Theodore, with whom he's been friends since third grade at Tampa's Berkeley Prep. "We were thinking in the same direction but had no idea. So we decided to make a run at it together."

World of Beer owners Matthew LaFon and Scott Zepp had no idea that "we knew each other and that Philippe and I were friends," Rappaport said.

In February 2008 and after several months of conversations, Theodore and Rappaport purchased the rights to three World of Beer pubs in Hillsborough. In July of that year, they secured the rights to three World of Beer pubs in Pinellas. In addition, they have first right of refusal for any other stores in those counties.

Their first pub opened at 5226 Fourth St. N in St. Petersburg two weeks ago. Their second, in Tampa Palms, is due to open in a couple of weeks. A Carrollwood pub will open in the first quarter of 2010. There will be Brandon and Clearwater bars late next year. The third Pinellas spot hasn't been identified.

"I lived in Europe for five years, and they (World of Beer) took something I liked, the local pub/cafe feel, and included an American twist," said Theodore, 32, who graduated from a college in Paris. "The acoustic music and the huge selection of beer is that American twist."

In January 2007, LaFon, 33, and Zepp, 35, opened the first World of Beer at 9524 W Linebaugh Ave. in Westchase.

"People immediately liked the Westchase store and started inquiring about how they could be a part of it," LaFon said. "We went with the franchise model, and our main goal is to build the brand."

Rappaport and Theodore were the first to negotiate and obtain a World of Beer franchise license. Now, that fee is $45,000 a store. There is also a monthly 5 percent royalty fee. A team from the original store helps guide a franchisee.

The first franchise pub opened in Sarasota last month. Then came St. Petersburg. The Tampa Palms store and a Melbourne location will come online next month. Lake Mary and Coconut Creek pubs will open in the first quarter of 2010.

All the stores will have a similar look to the Westchase store with brick accents, black high-back bar stools and a dark and shiny bar. Two-door coolers will highlight the vast selection of brews.

In a tough economic climate, opening a new business can be risky. But according to a study by the Nielson Co., beer sales have remained strong during the economic downturn.

Sean Snaith, director of the Institute of Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida, said beer is a stable product compared with fine dining or other spending.

And Snaith said success can be accomplished even during a recession.

"The stronger and more robust the business plan, the more likely it is to survive a downtown," Snaith said. "Recessions, in a way, are Darwinian; it's the survival of the fittest. In good times, even a bad business plan can have some success. But in the bad times, that's where you start to separate the weak from the strong, and the weaker ones tend to fall by the wayside."

• • •

Rappaport and Theodore see the economic climate as "opportunity." They said they would not have been able to get the quality locations they have during a hot economy.

"In addition, we have been able to get outstanding employees because people need jobs," said Rappaport, whose father owned all of Florida's Boston Markets and Einstein Bagels in the 1990s. "We have a world-class staff and many of them with college degrees. During a regular economy, I don't know if we would have the same staff."

To maintain an intimate feel, all the new stores will remain in the 2,500-square-foot range. There will be 40 taps, 10 more than at the Westchase location, and more than 500 beers.

Patrons will be able to purchase and take bottled beer home. The pubs will also serve wine.

Unlike the original Westchase store, Rappaport and Theodore's pubs will have a food menu created by Catering by Design in Tampa.

The two friends are pleased to see their Tampa Bay stores opening and said they will retain the same commitment to the community as the original store has.

"We will know our customers and our communities," Rappaport said. "We will connect with the community, because we believe that's how to make this concept work."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4174.

Young pair snag a six-pack of World of Beer pubs 11/20/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 21, 2009 8:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series


    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena


    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack


    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath


    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.