On 2/8/06 there was a column in the St. Pete Times by Sue Carlton about Viva La Frida's leaving. The article was titled "'Viva' brought life to neighborhood, but not vice versa"
Here is the abstract:
In the midst of this, a restaurant with a sign painted Viva La Frida! Cafe Y Galeria is like a bright, weedy flower poking through a crack in the sidewalk. On the patio, a stage is set for poetry readings, theater, music. A John Kerry fundraiser was here, a Fahrenheit 9/11 event, a parade of parties and exhibits.
Inside, art is everywhere, much of it homage to Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.
Angelica Diaz, she of the eclectic art and proud Mexican heritage, is mother of this place and one before it in Ybor City, with its $2.99 starving artist specials. A native of the town of Nogales on the Arizona-Mexico border, Diaz is a woman who radiates strength. Even her jewelry is bold and bright and hard not to look at.
No question, Tampa's get-tough stance on code enforcement is necessary, particularly in neighborhoods that suffer cars on blocks and mattresses on curbs. But there's an odd fact here: Some of Florida Avenue's uglier sights are exempt because they're grandfathered in. Second odd fact: The local historic district ends in the middle of Florida Avenue in front of Viva La Frida, meaning Diaz's business is subject to the rules while those across the street are not. (full article)
I have issues with the title of this article. It implies that the failure of the restaurant was strictly due to the neighborhood not supporting it.
"Last year, nearly 100 people showed up at a City Council meeting, some
waving coffee mugs, to rally for plans for a first-ever Seminole Heights
Nothing wrong with being able to walk out your door and down the street
to a trendy spot for a latte. It's just too bad you won't be able to stroll over
to Viva La Frida for a little art and soul, as well."
There is more to the issue than that.
One part is I would hear complaints about the place that caused people to not return. This neighborhood will gladly support its local business and restaurants. However we would like certain things in return. Consistency is the primary problem, I see in many restaurants. Consistency in the food, both in the quality and the menu choices, and in hours of operation. Service is another issue. Owners, listen to your customers. Don't be a prima donna. Customers, its about time we get blunt with the owners so we can help them succeed.
I addressed this issue of restaurants failing in Seminole Heights in one of my earliest posts.
There was a point I agreed with: "If there is a lesson here, maybe it's that the city needs someone to help small business owners who don't have big money or big lawyers to find their way through the maze of bureaucracy. It's an especially good idea for those willing to risk opening in a spot poised to turn around - or not. Former Mayor Sandy Freedman suggests, sensibly, a city ombudsman for the mom and pops." The Business Guild hopes to address that to some degree for its members.
We do need to change zome zoning rules (that generally are for suburbs.) We need to find ways to increase the parking. Whether it is the city buying some car lots or empty lots and making them community parking or whether some businesses can get together and buy and share parking. (The later is what could occur at Ghost Town at Nebraska and Osborne.)
By the way, I would like the City Council to pass an ordinance delaring a 5 year moritorium on any new car lots and tire stores in Seminole Heights.