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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Apr. 16, 2004 14 years ago

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

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This week's items: Tampa creditors' rights attorney Victor Veschio wants Hillsborough Judge Paul Huey's job.Yet another community bank has been organizing in Sarasota CountySwimming against the tide

Coffee Talk (Tampa edition)

New trend?

Hillsborough Judge Paul Huey faces an election challenge. Tampa creditors' rights attorney Victor Veschio wants his job.

Veschio of Nixon & Associates PA is the second attorney to challenge an incumbent Hillsborough County judge. Tampa attorney Kim Hernandez Vance of Cohn & Cohn PA recently filed her intention to challenge Judge Charlotte Anderson.

Although Veschio is not yet required to file campaign financials, Huey has collected $24,278 in contributions and $25,000 in loans through the quarter ended March 31.

There are now three contested races for county judge in Hillsborough. Henry Gill, Elizabeth Rice and Brad Souders want to replace retiring Judge Elvin Martinez.

Still unopposed are county judges James V. Dominguez, Nick Nazaretian, Michelle Sisco, Raul C. Palomino Jr. and Artemeus Elton McNeil - at least for the moment. The cutoff date for filing is May 7. Candidates would then vie for voter attention at the Aug. 31 primary. If needed, a runoff election would take place during the Nov. 2 general election.

At the circuit level, only incumbents have filed so far. They are judges Manual A. Lopez, Anthony K. Black, Charles "Ed" Bergmann, Denise Almeida Pomponio, Susan Sexton, William Fuente and Emmett "Lamar" Battles.

First America fast

Yet another community bank has been organizing in Sarasota County, purported to be one of the most over-banked areas in Florida. But guess what? Investors, at least, don't care what some bank analysts say about the Sarasota market.

First America Bank has blown past its goal of $7 million in beginning paid-in capital and now has more than $8 million on hand. And the bank-in-organization has extended the subscription period for a common stock offering beyond the original March 15 deadline.

The organizers are going to give it a few more weeks and see if they can hit the $10 million mark. First America, headed by former Regions banker Henry A. "Hank" Goldsby, plans to open a headquarters in Osprey sometime during this quarter, according to the offering circular. The bank-in-organization's president hopes to commence operations at a second office in Bradenton as soon as possible after the Osprey opening.

Goldsby and First America are getting closer to ribbon-cutting time.

Michael L. Hogan, a certified public accountant, has been chosen as First America's chief financial officer. Hogan most recently worked at Pelican National Bank in Naples.

Two senior lending executives have also come aboard. Michael Turner will be senior vice president and commercial loan manager in Sarasota County. David Wymer will hold the same title in Manatee County. Both have experience in the Sarasota market.

Swimming against the tide

Ever wonder why Tampa has so many mediocre restaurants? Why the choices are limited when you're looking to impress an out-of-town business client?

There's only so many times you can - or the accounting department will let you - go to Armani's or Bern's. Coffee Talk got to thinking about this civic liability on a recent Saturday night when our belly started to growl.

We decided to check out a sizzling-hot new eatery. It's in South Tampa, which is supposed to be the beating heart of epicurean sophistication in the Cigar City.

Actually, the popularity of the Rattlefish Raw Bar & Grill is a little hard to fathom. The food - you know, the thing that people go out to eat for - has gotten mixed reviews.

But Rattlefish is on the water and hard to find. That often compensates for whatever shortcomings a kitchen might possess.

Rattlefish is located in a grimy maritime district south of the Gandy Bridge, an area still a Starbucks or two away from full-throttle gentrification. The appeal, like some after-hours bottle club tucked away in a dark corner of the mean city, seems to be that Rattlefish is out of the way and has little off-street parking.

Lucky for us, we found a parking place - in the parking lot! We felt pity for the owners of all those Bimmers and Jags who had to leave their wheels out on the shoulder of West Tyson Avenue. But it turns out the joke was on us. The young maitre-duh looked absolutely thrilled to be able to inform us that the wait for a table would be 110 minutes. Our tummies were not holding out two hours for what could well be uninspired yuppie grub.

So we settled for a hole-in-the-wall down Gandy Boulevard called the Ahi Grille. The modest-looking seafood joint was almost deserted. But the fish was fresh and smartly prepared. The servers knew what they were talking about. And the beer selection was unusually varied. This was gourmet fare unpretentiously served in an old neighborhood haunt.

Why has Tampa overrun one of these two new additions to the local restaurant scene, and run in the opposite direction from the other?

Maybe it's because Rattlefish was opened by a former executive at Outback Steakhouse, that master of concept dining. All the Ahi Grille can boast is ownership by a Madeira Beach commercial fishing fleet owner, who lugs his own catch over the bridge for the pleasure of his customers.

Whatever the explanation, Coffee Talk is pretty sure where to get the better meal.

Grand Mariner delay lifted

On April 14, a circuit judge in Manatee County gave the go ahead for the $33-million Grand Mariner on Longboat Key.

In December of 2002, a resident of Longboat Key sued the town, claiming the town's Zoning Board of Commissioners improperly approved the project.

"When the litigation hit the newspapers, we pretty much decided it would be the prudent thing not to throw money at it on marketing," says Tom Hires, project manager and part owner. "But we knew there wasn't a question the way it would end up. That delayed us about a year though." The court ruled in favor of Longboat Key and its zoning board.

The Grand Mariner is a 14-unit luxury condominium development, which will replace the Buccaneer Inn Restaurant and Marina, at 595 Dream Island Road. The development will also feature 20 boat slips.

Hires shares ownership with the developer Chicago-based Terrapin Properties.

"We are anticipating that demolition will start in the next two to three months," Hires says. "Construction will probably start in early 2005. We are looking at a completion date in fall 2006."

Hires declined to comment because of the possibility of legal action against the former plaintiff. "We think we should do well," Hires says. "This is a small boutique community. It is also one of the most affordable developments on the key."

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