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Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar to replace Blue Martini Lounge at International Plaza

 
Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar is opening at International Plaza.  [Photos courtesy of Rocco's Tacos]
Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar is opening at International Plaza. [Photos courtesy of Rocco's Tacos]
Published April 19, 2018

The Blue Martini Lounge is closing at International Plaza on Jan. 14, and a South Florida Mexican restaurant chain, Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar, will open in its place.

Blue Martini, an upscale bar and club on Bay Street at International Plaza in Tampa, will close this month after a spokeswoman said that officials could not negotiate the terms for a new lease with Taubman Centers, the Michigan-based company that owns and operates International Plaza. Mall officials declined to comment.

"Blue Martini at International Plaza neared the amazing mark of nearly $100 million in total sales serving entertainment to over seven million guests," said Mark Vasu, CEO of Blue Martini Companies in a statement. "For any bar that I can fathom, that's a record setting accomplishment."

Blue Martini, which has been open at International Plaza for 15 years, plans to relocate elsewhere in Tampa, but officials have yet to secure a new location, according to a press release. The company operates lounges in malls in Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Miami, Naples, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Las Vegas.

Rocco's Tacos, a chain of Mexican restaurants, will begin construction in the Blue Martini space on Bay Street beginning Feb. 1, said Rocco Mangel, founder and managing partner of Rocco's Tacos. He's hopeful the restaurant could open within six months.

"This is our first Florida West Coast venture and is probably the first of possibly many opportunities on this side of the state," said Mangel, who added that the company had been scouting for real estate in Tampa for some time. "We were surprised to see a huge clientele from Tampa visiting our Orlando store. International Plaza seemed like the perfect ground zero spot for expansion in the area."

Previous coverage: Tampa Bay Lightning opens store inside International Plaza

The first Rocco's Tacos restaurant opened almost a decade ago in West Palm Beach. The company has since expanded to locations in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Orlando and Brooklyn, N.Y. In addition to Tampa, Rocco's Tacos will open a new restaurant inside the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Rocco's Tacos is known for serving more than 300 types of tequila, its housemade Margarita mix and fresh guacamole made tableside.

"We've re-concepted our program a little bit since (2007) to freshen up the decor and design and add more authenticity and craft cocktails to the menu," said Mangel. "The new Tampa location will look most like our Delray Beach restaurant, but the menu will be pretty much the same throughout all our restaurants."

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.