TAMPA — House Bill 155 was designed to sweep the state of illegal gambling cafes, and it worked. Internet cafes from Jacksonville to Key West have closed.
But the law's wide net appears to have caught some unintended prey: restaurants, bowling alleys and skating rinks. Chuck E. Cheese's and Dave & Buster's. Even Disney World may be a violator.
Experts say the language of the new law throws nearly all arcade games in the state of Florida into a gray area, leaving many business owners worried their games might not be legal. And to make matters worse, there appears to be no state agency where they can get a definitive answer to these questions....
TAMPA — Nick Van Cleve, an on-air personality for 107.3 the Eagle, has been around the music business for more than 35 years. He remembers when the Sun Dome at the University of South Florida first opened in 1981. The 10,000-plus seat venue was the biggest facility of its kind in the area, and Van Cleve rocked out there many times; Tom Petty, Stevie Ray Vaughan, U2.
It was fun, he said....
The table is glorious, like a potluck at a Southern family's reunion, but bigger. It's all there, as much as you want, gorgeous and glistening: Okra. Fried green tomatoes. Collard greens. Rutabagas. Piles of mashed potatoes and two kinds of gravy. Fried chicken and catfish and meatloaf. Corn casserole, sweet potato casserole, macaroni and cheese. Corn bread. Biscuits. Soups and salads. Warm peach cobbler, pecan pie, bread pudding, banana pudding. At night they have barbecue. On weekends, ribs....
ODESSA — The orange grove had been there since the 1920s, planted by her grandparents, on the land she has lived on almost all of her life. After nearly a century, the trees were diseased and dying. It was heartbreaking, but, as a farmer, Carleen Gunter needed to find something to replace the beloved grove on her 5 acres in Odessa.
In 2009, like many other growers in Florida, she decided to try blueberries. They're popular, and the bushes are great for a u-pick business. Gunter loved eating them. And they are quick to develop. ...
04/20/13 Human Interest
BY ERIN SULLIVAN
Times Staff Writer
TAMPA — Kimi Springsteen asks the waitress if she's new, because she knows all of the other servers at Thai Thani in Channelside, one of her regular restaurants. She also knows the managers. Springsteen, the vivacious Asian-American affairs liaison for Hillsborough County, seems to know everyone, everywhere, from former governors to immigrants struggling to navigate this new country. ...
Army Ranger Spc. Sean Pesce was shot 13 times last October in Afghanistan. He is 20, thin with brown hair and a shy smile, and paralyzed from the waist down. He has improved so much that he was being released from the James A. Haley VA Medical Center this past week and transferred to Boston, which is closer to his home.
"I'm excited," he said.
Throughout his ordeal, Pesce has had advocates navigating the military and medical system for him, with its dizzying amounts of complex paperwork, making sure he and his family got what they needed. The Care Coalition, which was ranked 25th out of 50 of the best small workplaces in the Tampa Bay area, is an agency within U.S. Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base that helps the injured and sick men and women of Special Operations. These are military's elite forces, such as Green Berets, Army Rangers and Navy SEALs. It doesn't matter whether the person was wounded in battle, like Pesce, or a 70-year-old veteran dealing with cancer. The agency helps those in combat forces and workers in support positions. ...
Here in his element, among the rows of beautiful, bright produce, Josh Crawford has become very good at spotting the uncomfortable. He sidles up to them, the first timers, the ones whose doctors told them they need to eat better, and gently asks if they need help.
Most say things like, "I'm supposed to eat more kale." Crawford, an employee at Whole Foods Market in Carrollwood, shows them what they are looking for, tells them the health benefits and his favorite recipes. He loves helping people. Like most employees at Whole Foods — which was ranked 16th out of 30 best midsize companies to work for in the Tampa Bay area — Crawford lives and believes in the store's healthy living philosophy. He eats no meat or dairy, though he has some fish a few times a month. Two avocados a day. Lots and lots of kale. ...
Julie Tipton knew this was where she belonged as soon as she walked the grounds last year.
"I felt drawn here," said Tipton, who will soon finish her first year as principal at Nativity Catholic School in Brandon, which was ranked 26th out of 50 small businesses in the Tampa Bay Times' annual list of the top places to work in the Tampa Bay area. Employees described a warm, spiritual environment where children and giving back to the community are the focus. Parents are heavily involved in the school, and there are few discipline problems with students, Tipton said. Employees appreciate being able to speak freely about their faith. ...
TAMPA — Jim Shirk has spent years trying to get the voices of cyclists heard in the Tampa area. Despite a strong, growing bike community and all of the region's attributes — flat terrain, nice climate — the area has been known as a deadly place for cyclists: 13 dead in Hillsborough in 2012.
But that seems to be changing.
"I feel somewhere between very positive and over the moon," said Shirk, beaming, as he mingled at a national bike safety summit held in a ballroom at the Tampa Convention Center on Thursday morning. The room was full of people who shared his passion, including U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. ...
In March, after months of negotiations, it appeared Tony DiMare and other proponents of the Florida tomato industry won. They contended to the U.S. Department of Commerce that Mexican tomatoes were being dumped on the U.S. market at prices so ridiculously low, American growers couldn't compete. After tense discussions, with talk of the tomato war's ripple effect possibly damaging U.S. exports to Mexico, an agreement was reached....
A few weeks ago, two new bicycle shops opened less than 3 miles apart from each other on Dale Mabry Highway. The news was so peculiar that a magazine editor more than 2,500 miles west in Laguna Hills, Calif., heard about it and was baffled.
"What is going on in Tampa?" Lynette Carpiet asked her staff at Bicycle Retailer and Industry News.
Tampa is not Portland or San Francisco or Boulder, where cycling is part of the culture. Tampa, despite its sunny climate and flat terrain, is known as an "unfriendly" place toward cyclists, Carpiet said. Few bike lanes. Drivers unaccustomed to watching out for cyclists. And dangerous: 13 riders were killed in Hillsborough County in 2012....
In September, Stefani Beddingfield found herself in Jacksonville at a weeklong conference for people interested in owning bookstores. She's 46, a stay-at-home South Tampa mother of two daughters and, until a few weeks prior to this, had never envisioned this path. But her beloved independent bookstore, Inkwood Books in Hyde Park, needed a new owner and she felt pulled toward the idea. She didn't want to romanticize it. She knows the struggle of books versus the Internet. She needed information to prove this could be viable. She pictured what the future could be like, she and her girls at the store, a cozy, vibrant place entwined with the community. She liked that vision. The seminar leader went around the room and asked participants why they wanted to own a bookstore. Most of them said it was a lifelong dream. At her turn, she said: "I just want to."...
TAMPA — One of Tampa's remaining local, independent bookstores is getting a new owner. Stefani Beddingfield will take over Inkwood Books on April 1 from owners Carla Jimenez and Leslie Reiner.
"We are proud to have the opportunity to pass forward a vibrant, healthy bookstore to Stefani, and are confident the new Inkwood will take great care of our devoted patrons as well as the new customers attracted by the fresh — admittedly younger — steward," Jimenez said in a press release Monday. She and Reiner have had the shop for more than 20 years....
Stacy Lester tried to remember what it used to be like. She walked to the window of her pub and looked out to the desolate shopping plaza. She has been trying to survive for so long, focused on getting through the day, she hasn't had the luxury to dwell. Slowly, it started coming back, the dry cleaners, the hair salon, the ice cream shop. Karate studio. Pet store. • And the Sweetbay, of course. • "That's wild," she said, her voice soft. "It was full." • With the recent closing of 33 Sweetbay Supermarkets in Florida — with two-thirds of those shuttered in the Tampa Bay area — Lester's experience might be the vision of what's to come for small businesses left behind in plazas without an anchor tenant. • "It's been tough," said Lester, co-owner of the Clubhouse Sports Cafe in Brandon. ...
03/16/13 Human Interest
TAMPA — On March 9, Greg Baker was furiously busy getting his restaurant's food booth ready for the Gasparilla Music Festival. But the famous chef and co-owner of the Refinery took the time to help out another independent restaurateur in need.
"Hey, Tampa folks, the folks at Pho An Hoa (one of Chef's favorite lunch spots) were held up at gunpoint Thursday and lost a week's deposits," he posted on the restaurant's Facebook page. "They're hurting for money because of that. Could ya show them some love if you're craving some good Vietnamese?" ...