Ringling Brothers may have been put to bed, but there’s another serious big top soon to be erected in Tampa.
Tampa’s Columbia Restaurant is said to be the oldest restaurant in the state, as well as the largest — a whole city block in historic Ybor City. It stays open for most major holidays, but from Sept. 2 to 4, it will go dark and the 1905 Salad will cease production.
Why? It will be termite tented (and no, it’s not a restaurant inspection infraction, we checked).
"We’re sorry for the inconvenience," said Richard Gonzmart, fourth-generation "caretaker" of the 113-year-old restaurant. "But historic buildings — and parts of this one date to 1903 — need special care from time to time. We’ll be back on Sept. 5 to make new memories."
Those with existing reservations on those dates have been contacted by the restaurant staff, and the Ybor City location is the only one to be affected. Yes, some folks will have to forego their Cuban sandwiches for a couple days, and the Gonzmarts will incur the massive expense of such an undertaking, but what precisely is involved?
Haskell Termite & Pest Control in Tampa is on the job. It will take 12 to 15 people to snug the tenting over the building, and it will require 600,000 cubic feet of tenting. That’s about ten-and-a-half football fields and almost twice as big as the big top Ringling Brothers’ roustabouts would erect (406 feet long, 206 feet wide and 400 feet tall, it weighed 28,000 pounds and was retired in 1956 because it was too cumbersome).
Richard Gonzmart doesn’t do anything small. So, for a few days, what started as a little 60-seat sandwich-and-coffee joint will loom against Ybor City’s skyline like a draped Christo installation. But after the unwrapping, it’s business as usual.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.