When the lights in the old marquee went dark last year, many thought the former American Stage building at 211 Third St. S in St. Petersburg was destined for a date with a bulldozer.
Scars abound from years gone by, with doorways bricked up to complete walls and dangling insulation. The old building was an automotive accessories store in the late 1920s, then later became a cigar warehouse and an art gallery before eventually becoming the home of American Stage in 1984.
But big things are apparently in store for the former theater as new owners set the stage for what may become one of the busiest nightlife spots in the city.
A former contractor and nightclub owner, a shock jock and the king of Sunset Beach plan to add two clubs to an intersection that already has Push Ultra Lounge.
Richard Fabrizi and partners Tony Amico and Bubba the Love Sponge Clem are the players in the new venture.
The interior of the building already has been gutted. Fabrizi plans a three-story club including a roof-top deck. The third level will feature a separate club with another entrance.
"Yes. I'm opening a club — an upscale, premium nightclub is what we're calling it. I'm staying away from the ultra lounge format that everyone else around the country seems to be using nowadays," said Fabrizi.
Scene, the three-level club, will have two different music formats going at all times, he said.
While a lot of the specifics are still being ironed out, Fabrizi said he hopes to have office space in the property open soon.
"We're in the permitting process right now," he said. "I'm just trying to get the offices ready for staffing for promoters and managers."
Fabrizi said he expects the new venue to open by early July.
He's also getting input from a familiar name in the downtown entertainment business. He was meeting with his architect, John C. "Jack" Bodziak," on Friday during a telephone interview.
Bodziak not only promoted concerts at Jannus Landing but also ran Detroit Liquors and Fine Wines, the Tamiami Bar and the Pelican Pub.
Jesus Molina Villalobos, who manages the Red Mesa Cantina across the street from Fabrizi's planned venture, said he welcomes the prospect of another club. It will shift foot traffic and potential customers away from Central Avenue and First Avenue N to corridors slightly south of the downtown core, he said.
Former area nightclub entrepreneur in Africa
Development veteran Doug Illman, the former owner of DeSanto Latin American Bistro and Push Ultra Lounge, has pulled up stakes and left town. Illman, who invested millions in the McNulty Station property, was a key player in downtown nightlife in recent years.
Illman sold his interests in Push Ultra, the Buona Vita trattoria and Paddy Burkes restaurant and bar before moving to Africa last month to teach.
Former mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons said he spoke to Illman on Thursday from Botswana.
Koi have arrived in VIP area at Jannus Live
Koi arrived in the new VIP area at Jannus Live on Wednesday.
The colorful orange, yellow and white koi, visible under the plexiglass deck, are housed in a 55,000-gallon tank.
Jeff Mendoza, of Jeff's Koi House at 12350 Ridge Road in Largo, said the koi are valued at about $20,000. There are six large and 15 to 20 smaller koi in the pond.
Mendoza said he will put shade sails above the pond to keep the pond cool.
Sandra J. Gadsden is assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at (727) 893-8874 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/StPeteSandi.