Monday, April 09, 2007

What am I eating?

After reading the comments about the Spanish language restaurants in Seminole Heights and how some people feel they are getting discriminated in some of those restaurants, starting with the fact that the menu might only be in Spanish, I had a reactionary thought.

Should City Council or in fact the Florida Legislature pass a ordinance or law that requires all foreign language menus to also be in English?

An undercurrent to this discussion is that a few of one kind of ethnic restaurants is quaint. An overwhelming number is seen as threatening.


Anonymous said...

This is a huge debate nationally, but from where I am sittting I don't think the government needs to pass an ordinance about menus. Instead, let money talk.

If a restaurant wants MY money they'd better make it comfortable for me to order. I can choose to go to a restaurant that is welcoming to me, and spend my money there. But if a restaurant chooses to limit it's clientele so severely, good luck to them if they can pull it off. If someone really wants to go there and doesn't speak spanish - you'd better start learning.

This whole english language debate blows my mind. First off, the first european settlers weren't english, but spanish. But once again, economics talk. It's hard to get ahead in America if you don't speak english, but it's entirely up to the individual if they wish to learn it or not. My two cents.

Anonymous said...

Oh Heaven forbid. This is America, the US of A. We can't treat americans the same way you treat the minority population. Then we would be equal. We can't have that. We should all just learn their language so we can accomadate them in our country.

Anonymous said...

No. Try learning just a little of the language of the people with whom you are associating. It will open your mind a bit.

Anonymous said...

You bring up two interesting points.

1) what *am* I eating? This can be as simple as a jew or muslim eating pork without knowing it, or a diabetic eating too much sugar, or worse. Bul Gogi and Ka Gogi. Two dishes. Both Korean. One goes "mooo" and the other goes "woof". Which is which if you don't speak the language?

2) A few are quaint and lots are overwhelming. Yes. A few are a display of variety and choice but many is a display of "cultural invasion." When a large amount of retail moves into an area that obviously is not interested in selling to the existing people, that is threatening. Abuelas, Copas, etc, all there for those that speak spanish and not the anglos in the neighborhood. That probably makes the anglos (gringos?) nervous.

Of course, to be fair, a bunch of monied, educated yuppies moving into the neighborhood probably make the poorer folk nervous.

Perhaps we'd be less worried about this development if the failed establishments were replaced by new businesses that were welcoming to everyone. The spanish restaraunts, however, tend not to be so we see this as lost ground in the battle for a resident-serving commercial district. Or, in other words, if we already had a decent number of places to go, the spanish restaraunts and groceries wouldn't feel so threatening because they wouldn't represent a loss.

Anonymous said...

"We can't treat americans the same way you treat the minority population."

So wait, becasue they are a minority they AREN'T Americans?

Anonymous said...

I'll order in Mandarin Chinese if the food is good.

The problem is the food sucks at the vast majority of these dirtbag Mexican restaurants.

Anonymous said...

Er not to pick nits, but these would be "dirtbag" Cuban restaurants.

(and isn't "dirtback" a bit harsh?)

Anonymous said...

They are not all Cuban restaurants. The new one on Florida is not Cuban and they are not all "dirtbag". I also feel that if I am made to feel welcomed I will try a place and if it is good and clean I will most likely return. That's really the bottom line, isn't it? I think it is very interesting that in all areas of our city, the minority groups are flourishing. If we want more anglo businesses... where are the anglos to open them?

Anonymous said...

How about a nice little sports bar/restaurant with a few pool tables, cold beer, pleasant staff and some decent bar food.

It can be run by martians for all I care.

Is this too much to ask in a neighborhood where houses are going for $300,000 and up?


Anonymous said...

ANON 4/09/2007 1:55 PM -

Agreed !! Someone please open up a nice little bar with good drinks, or a fine dining establishment that doesnt serve just pizza. dear god save us.

I could care less what language these scummy little restraunt menus are written in. Wont find me in there.

Anonymous said...

I guess the market is waiting for homes to sell for $400,000 before someone opens a sports bar.

Anonymous said...

Hell Gadsden, Ala., Lake City, Fl. and Kingsport, Tenn. can get a Beef O'Brady's franchise but a solid (and rising) income neighborhood in Tampa with some of the highest traffic count roads in the city can't.

Adam Smith's invisible hand of the market does not work in Seminole Heights folks.

Must be the gays.

NewHeightsMag said...

Interesting point on the Beef's.

Starting a business requires so much time and effort -- however if that's divided among several people who want to invest cash and/or time in the project, the burden is lightened.

Why don't some of the bloggers -- myself included -- pool together and open something instead of asking for "someone" to do it?

"Someones" are doing it and (in many peoples' opinions) most of them seem to be doing it wrong. We all seem to be on the same page ... we have a common desire and focus. Why not?

Anonymous said...

ya know the old Viva's sight is still on the market - the new restuarant is just renting.......

Anonymous said...

Beefs aside (there are rumors...)

You'll need a liquor license. The 4COP license sold with the Liars Club was valued around $125K, but that's the 'biggest' license you can get. A beer/wine only license is far easier, but also far less profitable.

You'll need a loan. To get a loan for a bar/restaurant, you'll need at least one owner with more than 3 years direct experience or you'll need to pre-hire a managment company that can provide that for you. Somewhere in the range of 80% of bar/restaurants fail in the first couple years and banks are pretty stingy with loaning cash to them.

How big of a loan you'll need depends on if you lease or buy. There is less risk in leasing but finding a space that will meet code is going to be nearly impossible in Seminole Heights. Buying gives you the power to build and design your own space, but you'll need $1 million to do that. Good luck.

So you lease... where? Mr Marino can likely give you an earfull on what going the legal, above-board route will take. That quaint little shop of his wasn't his first choice, and is far smaller than what he originally set is mind to. There's a reason for that. Or, you can do what Cappy's did and hope the neighborhood will bail you out. (given the extreme shortage of places to go, this might be a reasonable bet, but don't take that as an endorsement for illegal activity.)

Oh, and wait until you see the price of even a used code-compliant venting hood needed to fry foods like hamburgers. That'll really drive home the cost of that quarter-pounder.

If you can slog through all of that, do you think your significant other will still like you after years of working 12+ hour days and no weekends or holidays? Welcome to the fabulous world of being a small business owner. (Yeah, you can share those responsibilities while sharing the profit. If a $35k or less annual income is do-able for you, that is.)

Anonymous said...

Great points Anonymous 8:43 and I certainly understand the hurdles of opening a new bar/restaurant but what I wonder is when does the potential payoff make the hurdles less daunting?

When does reward trump risk?

I still see plenty of action on the residential side of Seminole Heights. Despite doom and gloom reports of the housing market, prices have held up pretty well in the area - good condition homes are still going for $200 a square foot. I also see a bunch of renovations going on in my part of the hood.

So when does this residential infusion of cash FORCE commercial development? What is the breaking point?

I find it hard to believe a good, thorough demographic study of the area would do anything other than encourage an entrepreneur.

Maybe not. Maybe we'll have to wait for a scourge of tear downs to hit the neighborhood before businesses beleive SH is a good investment.

Anonymous said...

There are two main factors you bring up here:

Why doesn't the high disposable income in the area "force" commercial redevelopment?

I think there are two main forces at work against this. First is greed; the current commercial owners have watched the residential take off and they are seeing South Howard dollar signs for their Nebraska Avenue lot. Second is code requirements. Our code requirements are drafted based on the New Tampa suburban model where open land is plentiful and commercial lots are large. One 4-chair table in a restaraunt requires 3/4 of a parking space (if I recall correctly). 10 tables = 8 parking places.

Why doesn't a good, thorough demographic study encourage entrepreneurs?

My zip code is 33604--Sulphur Springs. Most chain stores base their research on zip-code based demographics.

The reality is we'll have a chain of failed attempts, each one improving the building marginally, each one building expectation for services, until finally all the pieces fall together and the business sticks. The first section of the neighborhood to get a small grouping of these will likely take off.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point about the zip code demographics.

Maybe a good project for the numerous business alliances would be to put together a more realistic demographic document (call it a partial zip code study) and then shop it to the economic development agencies in Tampa.

I've lived in the area for two years and as you can probably tell I'm just amazed at the gap between residential and commercial development.

Still a great place to live but it could be so much better.

Census Data said...

This could be a census tract study.

Anonymous said...

As the values of homes raise here in the hood, it may push out some of the communist left that live here. Once some of the radical left is gone you may see some increase in capitalistic ventures here. I am not talking about your typical democrat, just the radical ones.

You cant even build a Starbucks here without the radicals vandalizing the place, or tear down a used car dealership on Florida/Nebraska without them flipping out.

The reason I say this is: Yes, it is expensive and difficult to open a new restaurant or bar. But, It's less difficult to open a franchised restaurant or bar. Lenders are more willing to lend to franchise owners. Franchises train the owners and staff and do the required local market research. Franchises are over 75% less likely to fail then independently owned restaurants.

Could you imagine how insane the radical left would be if they heard a *GASP* franchise was moving into the hood? Could you imagine how bad these peace loving and caring people will vandalize this place?

Anonymous said...

Could you provide some logic as to specifically why radicals prevent development in our area?

I just don't see how a small number of anti-establishment jerks can keep anything from opening. Red-blooded capitalist pigs aren't afraid of them.

NewHeightsMag said...

I think you're forgetting about Cappy's and the overwhelming support that's come from the SH community (despite what may be received from by some blog entries).

Cappy's is a franchise.

Anonymous said...

All you need to do is follow the Cappy's Model: 1) Remodel an old building with out pulling any permits (this avoids many standard problems with the city). 2) Disregard parking issues ( People in seminole Heights will cross a three lane Highway in the dark to eat your food) 3) only open for four hours a day and not a minute more (this cuts down on overhead) 4) Hire lousy staff for cheap 5) make the neighborhood jump through hoops to support you when the City say's you did things wrong(Because you know they want you here) 6) Sell your Property and resturant for a huge profit after two years and move to a "better neighborhood"

Anonymous said...

Franchise? I thought there were only two?

NewHeightsMag said...

"Scooter Gabel, a former professional race car driver, owns the Seminole Heights Cappy's. It's a franchise of the original Cappy's, at 3200 W Bay to Bay Blvd."

This is according to this news article:

Anonymous said...

It's obvious the radicals arent aware that Cappy's is a franchise.

Anonymous said...

Correction: Cappy's of Seminole Heights Inc. owns Cappy's. Scooter and Nat are officers of the corporation. It is a private corporation so we do not know who owns shares in that corporation.

Anonymous said...

What source do you have that overrides Kathy Steele's story?

I'm saying she wasn't wrong, but where are you getting your facts?

Anonymous said...

since when does Kathy Steele write for the St Pete Times?

Anonymous said...

public records, state of florida division of corporations, hillsborough county property appraiser web site. I really wish we all would have done more research befroe we went down to unflinching support. Too late now

Anonymous said...

And you do know everything you read in the paper is not true?
( ex. the many story's on viva's claiming how the community did not support her)

KombatRock! said...

"Dirtbag Mexicans"?!? Spoken like a true Imus fan. Kick the radicals out and the capitalists will come? Hilarious! Honkeys, you're a credit to the race!

It's important to note that the hispanic tradition in Tampa dates back at least 120 years and at one point Spanish speakers outnumbered those that spoke English. Hispanics have always had a home in Tampa, and Tampa wouldnt have become a major Florida city if it wasn't for their presence. A few have dared to venture outside their home turf to set up shop in your neighborhood and all of a sudden it's a "cultural invasion." Lest we forget it's the Latin influence that put Tampa on the map. The xenophobia and not-so-well veiled racism people express here is pretty alarming.

I'm all for being able to read menus but mandating it is taking it a bit too far. I think what we really have here is a case of "Soho envy". The neighborhood's not gentrifying exactly according to plan and it's gotten some folks feathers all in a bunch that Seminole Heights will be more like West Tampa in a decade than Hyde Park. So what? Go eat a cuban sandwich and some churros and relax.

Anonymous said...

I hope Seminole Heights does become more like West Tampa. Because White People En Masse are BORING!

Anonymous said...

I like spics, they work cheap.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! It's nice to see someone knows we do more that pop out babies and play loud latin music in our rusty hooptys. Asshole.

Anonymous said...

KombatRock! -

Because we are capitalists we are now racist? This race card shit is pissing me off to no end.

I have no issue with successful Hispanic, blacks, or any race moving into the neighborhood. I'd eat at the first fine dining establishment to be opened in the neighborhood, no matter what race owns it.

If a low end restaurant is opened by either a white or Hispanic, I will not eat there. I rather cook my own food. Why pay to eat something that's not as good as my home cooking?

Seminole Heights will not be like west Tampa. Home prices in areas like Town and Country are falling, and they have an abundance of apartments turned condo.

Luckily we have already priced out most of the trash (race indifferent) in the historic districts of Seminole heights. If not wanting to live next to any race who has no goals or ambitions in life makes me a racist, then so be it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I suppose a "franchise" has to start somewhere. I still question whether or not it really is a franchise, simply because the only thing they are getting is Goodwill from one local establishment. Hardly worth the controls and fees that come with a franchise.

Either way, a local "franchise" is still local. And just because it is a franchise doesn't make it any less mom-n-pop at the scale of Cappy's. So anyone looking to poke the anarchists in the eye over this one (and I seriously doubt any of them actually went to city hall anyway) are wasting their time.

Anonymous said...

I think there should be more American Indians in the neighborhood ... after all, they were here before any hispanics. Hispanics pushed them out and it's high time for the Indians to have a population revitalization.

In other words, the who came first thing is still tired.

Michelle said...

You people kill me..Ha Ha Ha!!!!! Why does no one post with his or her names anymore???? Come on, you don't even need an account, you can just use "Other", list a name, and leave the web site line blank.

I digress, Mal and me hit up ALL the Hispanic joints. LOVE THEM! But we do not go there for service or cleanliness. Ya see, we are (as stated earlier) Honkies and I don't speak a lick of Spanish, (Mal does but it is broken and he confuses it with Italian) so when we walk in the door the entire place sighs...”gringos”, and then a young Hispanic woman yells back to the kitchen (in Spanish, of course) "Hey Jesus bring out the 15 yr old sour cream and molded crunchy taco shells, we have a couple of Gringos here!" But that is OKAY! Because I love the food, Carnitas from Mi Mexico, Puerco and Congris from Pipo’s, Rizio from Brasilian Grille, Chicarrons from ANYWHERE! Mal and I are not the typical gringos; we will try anything from anywhere. Note: we are not typical. The median age in Seminole Heights is 35, the median race is white, the median household income is $79K. How do you rank?
I know this because we were trying to open a bar in the Heights this time last year with our partner (a Rican, the lowliest of the Hispanics according to every Hispanic I have every befriended including our former partner). The hurdles to jump were HUGE! We just couldn’t come up with that type of cash flow. So, to round back to my point, places like the Honduran joint on Florida have ready cash flow. Most of the money is saved or borrowed from family in the States and back home. Only beer is offered, family runs it, and the overhead is minimal because the food cost is minimal. These places are not using choice products because that is not true to the original recipes. They also receive large incentives from the State for being a minority operation. Now for the cleanliness, these places pass health inspections but just barely because it is an American culture to be overly clean and only an American culture. Have any of you been out of the country? Look around the next place you eat at. You’ll be surprised. You will also be surprised at what will pass a health inspection. Your chain restaurants on Dale Mabry are probably dirtier than the joints on Armenia but the front of the house (or the dining area for those who have not worked in a restaurant) are kept neat and tidy to give the appearance of a clean facility. Okay, everyone here is your homework. I want all of you to go out and buy “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain. Read this and report back to me next week.
As far as the franchises and the types of businesses that should come into the Heights, I sit on the fence. I don’t want places like the Honduran joint because I already have a street lined with them, food only establishments. And I don’t want Chili’s and Beef’s to move in with all of their bad food. I want a hang out. I’d like a New World type of place (New World is a pub on 8th in Ybor). What we need is a Shady Grove! If you have ever been to Austin, TX you know this place. It is awesome! Tex Mex, amazing Margaritas, weekend bands of all kinds, and a huge outdoor seating area with a lot of shade. Ahh, the Bloody Marys were to die for.

YetAnotherAnonymoose said...

Alas, the trouble you had opening a bar mirrored my own and so many others. The reasons you cite are the reasons a Beef's is more likely than a Chili's or Shady Grove. (And Beef's is (was?) a local company that only recently went "franchise". The original family owns all the franchises in Tampa.) Beefs can modify itself to fit a location, a Chilis is unlikely to. A Shady Grove simply cannot afford the area.

Could you cite your sources for the median age, race, and income for all of Seminole Heights? It doesn't seem to mesh well with the figures our Blog host himself has posted. I'm betting you limited your scope to just the historic areas? Perhaps drew the line at 15th?

Miche11e said...

Actually, Shady Grove is a franchise, of sorts. You can check out the site at
and if you have deep pockets, hell open up a Shady Grove!!! The stats came directly from the public records census and it was a year ago and I was not the one who researched it, it was my partners assistant but, I am betting it was dead on being it had to be presented to banks, lawyers, etc. Ya know, a Business Plan. And no, it was not limited to the historic area, it was by zip.
I don't want a Beef's because the food is bad. Burgers and wings, yeah. To me the food at Beef's is equivalent to the food at Chili's, regardless of where the franchise started. I'm not against franchises, hell, I hope to start a franchise myself. That's where the real money is!
People, why are you so afraid to use a handle!!! Make something up! Not all of this Anon crap. It gets old having to refer to "Anon 6:51" Be creative with your names, have fun, let your hair down!

thatlittlebroad said...


I read Kitchen Confidential. I thought I couldn't love him any more. Then I read that. So good!
Have you seen his show on the travel channel?


Anonymous said...

The Sulphur springs zip code came back with a median white, 35yo, 79K?!


Anonymous said...

Sulpher Springs Bar -- now that was a great dive bar (now a strip club).

Michelle said...

Hey, don't look at me, I didn't take the census.
And yes, love, love all of Bourdain's shows.

Anonymous said...

"a Rican, the lowliest of the Hispanics according to every Hispanic"

I thought Dominicans were.
They have to share an island with a bunch of Hatians and you know there was some cross-breeding.
Everyone I know from Costa-Rica seem to be nice enough so what are you meaning?

incredulous said...

You know... I'm gonna call "shenanigans" on the claim that the 33604 zip code has a median family income of $79K. That means near half of all families in 33604 make more than $79K. That includes all those people living North of the River near the dog track, and those around Arminia from slight to Busch Blvd. Seriously... no way.

Zip Code Map

Miche11e said...

I'm sorry. Allow me to clarify or "allo me to splain". Rican would only refer to Puerto Ricians. I called my best friend, a Costa Rician, and she almost drove to my house and slapped me in the face when I asked her if she too would be considered a "Rican". Not because I insulted her as a hispanic woman, but because I would dare think that "Costa Ricans and those dirty, lazy, no good 'Ricans' would be EVEN (at this time you must imagine and a female spanish accent almost in a shriek) somewhat of the same....NO!"
I of course was laughing through all of this because I have heard her many, many times make comments about the Puerto Rican people. I then called my old biz partner and asked him, "Are people from Puerto Rico the only people to be slanged as 'Ricans'?" He confirmed this statement to be true.