Neighborhood Bar Joins Investment Surge In Seminole Heights

Paul Medrano owns the opportunities life brings.

As a teenager, he went from the stock room of a women's boutique to the shop's fashion buyer. He had an eye for style and color and what looked good on a woman. "At age 19, I was traveling to New York and Miami, going to shows with beautiful models," says Medrano.

Since then he has traveled the world, lived in trendy South Beach in Miami, worked as a stock broker for nearly two decades, and published "Boss," a magazine devoted to art and fashion.

By the end of March he and business partner Brian Bosco plan to open Red Star Rock Bar on Florida Avenue in Seminole Heights. After a nearly two-year wait, the classic-style rock n' roll bar with a Bohemian flair, at 5210 N. Florida Ave., joins the cluster of restaurants and shops that have revitalized a major neighborhood corridor. Among them are Cappy's Pizza, The Refinery, Independent, Cleanse Apothecary, Microgroove, Sherry's YesterDaze Vintage Clothing and Antiques, and Forever Beautiful Salon and Day Spa.

Even more is on its way as some of the last open commercial slots on this southern end of Florida from Hillsborough Avenue to Violet Street are snapped up by developers and entrepeneurs. A row of storefronts across from Cappy's and Independent are on the market; a former NAPA Auto Parts shop needs a new tenant.

And, Medrano already is working on his next project -- the Seminole Heights Suchi and Surf Club. He hopes to open within a year in a long abandoned shop at the corner of Florida and Violet.

Funding for the bar is right out of the pockets of Medrano and Bosco who have spent about $100,000 so far. "It's our savings," says Medrano. And he says their paychecks from other jobs.

Next door to Red Star Rock Bar, a vacant lot recently became the property of Tampa-based DRP Company of Alabama, Inc. Owners bought the site from the Florida Department of Transportation with a public bid of about $376,000. As part of the sales contract, they also took over a 5-year parking lease worked out previously between Medrano and FDOT.

Boutique shops are a possibility for the vacant land, minus the spaces reserved for the bar.

"We're excited. We love Seminole Heights," says Dennis Skop, DRP's property manager. "It's a very vital, still energized district with a lot of potential."

Skop says it is premature to talk about future tenants. "We'll be open to anybody," he says. "We've had inquiries."

He can say the spot will not be another restaurant. Not enough room for the restaurant and parking, Skop says.

Lack of parking is the sticking point for many business owners in Seminole Heights. It is largely what slowed Medrano down for nearly two years as he waited to secure his parking lease, win Tampa City Council approval and apply for building permits.

But he says he understands city officials' concerns, given the bar scene on Howard Avenue in South Tampa. "They don't want this to be another South Howard where people are parking in people's yards," Medrano says.

The Red Star Rock Bar sign is planted in the parking lot. Plumbing and electrical work are the final steps before the opening.

Music will feature classic rock. Medrano says music from Matchbox Twenty and Dave Matthews Band are among the sounds that will get play. But softer sounds of jazz and Frank Sinatra also will be heard. There will be seating indoors and on an outdoor patio. No rap or hip-hop. "You can't even play it on our juke box," Medrano says.

Bosco is an award-winning bartender for his 2012 concoction, Tuacan the Plank; and, he'll be mixing cocktails and specialty drinks at Red Star Rock Bar. He also is a partner in Domani Bistro & Lounge located on the northern end of Florida, which also is generating renewed attention.

Last week Domani's building was destroyed by a fire caused by an electrical malfunction in a walk-in freezer. Next door, the furniture store, A Modern Line, also was heavily damaged.

Medrano says he and Bosco are pushing ahead for a late March opening of Red Star. Expectations are for the owner of Domani's building to rebuild so Domani's can return, Medrano says.

The bistro is across from San Carlos Tavern & Grill and next to the soon-to-open Angry Chair micro-brewery. Rooster & the Till is a new restaurant in the 6500 block of Florida. The Refinery's owners are building their new restaurant concept, Fodder & Shine, also on Florida.

Red Star Rock bar will have liquor, wine and beers on tap. There will be no kitchen, but patrons can enjoy varied menus served up from a rotation of food trucks that will park outside Red Star Rock Bar.

People stop by almost daily to get a close-up look at artist Matt Callahan's eye-catching mural on the bar's outer wall, sometimes posing for pictures or selfies in front of the homage to 1960s rock 'n roll legends, including Mick Jagger.

Paintings from local artists, Robert Wegmann and Melody Swindle, will be hung inside. Medrano plans to rotate art displays and to hold regular art and fashion events.

"We want to support art as much as we can," he says.

Kathy Steele is a freelance writer living in the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.

Read more articles by Kathy Steele.

Kathy Steele is a feature writer and editor at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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