TAMPA — He operated his neighboring Cephas’ Hot Shop restaurant on Fourth Avenue for nearly four decades, yet rarely ventured the three blocks to Ybor City’s main thoroughfare of Seventh Avenue.
“I would walk my dog there sometimes when people weren’t around but I never went often or when it was crowded," Cephas Gilbert said. “I was a Fourth Avenue guy.”
He now seeks to become a Seventh Avenue staple.
Less than three months after shutting down his Jamaican restaurant, the 68-year-old native of Kingston has opened a juice bar inside Tequilas Ybor at 1613 E. Seventh Ave.
He fashioned a green, yellow and red Jamaican-themed hut in the corner of the Mexican restaurant and has a window facing Seventh Avenue so all passersby can see inside.
“This is great advertisement,” Gilbert said.
Still, the move might not be his biggest change.
Gilbert’s signature — and notoriously bitter — aloe shakes now have a sweetener.
“Fresh sugar cane juice,” he said.
Among aloe’s health benefits, Gilbert said, is improved circulation and digestion.
But, due to the harsh taste, many have shied away from the blended drinks, made only with water, ice and aloe scraped fresh from a leaf.
He hopes the sweetener will bring more customers.
“Cane and aloe are both anti-inflammatories,” Gilbert said. “I want to show the people here how to be healthy.”
The sugar cane juice will also be sold by the glass.
He no longer sells the Jamaican cuisine served at his old restaurant, but his jerk sauce can be purchased by the jar.
Gilbert also sells tamarind juice and his “Power House Tea” made with seven types of herbs.
Jason Fernandez, who owns Tequilas Ybor and is a longtime aloe drinker, is excited for Gilbert’s arrival.
“And the sweeter aloe,” Fernandez laughed. “It’s delicious.”