The closure of two stalwart Tampa Bay restaurants is cause for a moment of mourning, but perhaps also a call to examine how much the local restaurant scene has changed in recent years.
The View at CK's atop the Tampa Airport Marriott hotel ceased its spinning Saturday night after 41 years. Jimmy Stewart closes Spoto's Steak Joint 2 in Dunedin on Thursday. The concept got its start in 1972.
The Airport Marriott announced the closure of its spinning restaurant (one of only two in the area; Spinner's in St. Pete Beach is the other) several months back. The space will be used for banquets and meetings, with staffers moving downstairs to the hotel's other restaurant. The site of proms, engagements and anniversaries for Tampa residents for decades, CK's showed an evolving 360-degree view of Tampa's skyline. It was once a fancy, jacket-required restaurant that competed with Bern's Steak House as the "it" place. Perhaps it was the less-than-picturesque airport expansion, or maybe it was an influx of a number of competing high-end restaurants in the West Shore corridor, but CK's stopped drawing customers from the community the way it did 20 or 30 years ago.
Bob Spoto and Jimmy Stewart started the original Spoto's Stockyard Inn more than 30 years ago, with a number of offshoots in St. Petersburg and Dunedin appearing over the years. Stewart has been on Dunedin's Main Street for 13 years, doing high-end steaks and chops, as well as dabbling in exotic game (think python, etc.). He says that since the economy tanked in 2008, business has tapered off, with costs steadily rising.
"Energy, insurance, labor, food costs, you name it," he says. While he countered these increases by offering smaller steaks and combo plates, as well as dinner salads and pastas, he says competing with the growing appeal of chain restaurants is tough.
"They're offering two dinners for $20. You go to the grocery store and see the prices these days — that's really impossible to do."
Stewart will close Spoto's on Thursday and concentrate on his other Dunedin restaurant, Bascetti's.
"We're going to consolidate menu items from Spoto's with the Bascetti's menu and make it more of an Italian steak house," he says. "I'm looking at it as a new beginning, as a new opportunity."
In similar news, it was just announced that the landmark Red Rose Inn & Suites in Plant City, which closed last year, will be sold in several live and online auctions in August, pending bankruptcy court approval. For years, Hillsborough County residents were treated to TV commercials starring co-owner Evelyn Madonia in fancy sequined ball gowns, touting the Red Rose as the place to go for ballroom dance, not to mention weddings and other fancy occasions.