Super Bowl LV was this past weekend and in the end Tampa Bay won the championship. It wasn’t all that was happening in town though, the Super Bowl brought celebrities and parties across the bay that have created fears of a superspreader event in Tampa.
CBS 12 reports: “Florida is leading the way in terms of one of the fastest rates of B117,” said Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist with the Federation of American Scientists. “The natural contagiousness of the B117 means that it will infect a lot of people.”
Nearly half a million or 500,000 Americans have died during the Coronavirus pandemic and over 26,000 Floridians. Throughout the course of the pandemic, Florida has been under the national microscopic from spring breakers telling people they don’t care about the pandemic to Governor DeSantis constantly fighting restrictions and acting like nothing is wrong.
There is evidence that travelers have curbed travel to Florida throughout the pandemic and the impact on businesses has been quite deep although it has been increasing in recent months. The emergence of the UK Variant in the state could be an emergency for local businesses if it leads to travel restrictions due to government mismanagement of the virus.
Last night the nation witnessed another night of protests across the country after the death of George Floyd and many of them became violent in the evening.
Although Tampa saw a peaceful protest in the daytime with the Mayor of Tampa Jane Castor and Chief of Police Brian Dugan marching with protesters, as the evening approached the protests became more intense and led to several cases of looting including a burning of a Mobil gas station and then a fire at Champ’s across the street from the University Mall.
Saigon Bay is a local Vietnamese restaurant that has been a neighborhood eatery for decades and it’s location next to Champ’s led to damage of their building. University of South Florida students and staff, as well as those from the area know it well as a great place to enjoy a bowl of pho.
“As you may know Tampa got out of hand last night. My parents owned and built this restaurant from the ground up ever since I was born. We sold it a few years back to some wonderful owners that took the restaurant to another level. I’m incredibly heartbroken about the events that have occurred especially to something so near and dear to my family’s hearts, but please please everyone be empathetic towards one another.
In the video of George Floyd’s death, there was a man of Asian decent that was in the wrong and it reminded me how different it is for our race. Yes, we still deal with racism. However police brutality is something our race does not have to deal with. I’ve seen with my own eyes how my African American friends get treated differently than me even though I am a minority just like them.
Whenever I hear “All Lives Matter,” it’s total bulls***. At the end of the day, we all have to be kind towards one another. Love really does cure all. As for Saigon Bay, I am communicating with the owners to see how we can help as a community to help put back their business that they put their blood, sweat and tears into. #blacklivesmatter#bekind“
In recent weeks the CDC has updated their protocols to recommend that Americans wear masks or face coverings in public. N95 masks are reserved for healthcare workers, but all other masks are encouraged.
The main idea behind this push is to prevent people from spreading droplets of Coronavirus (COVID-19) to other people when they are out shopping and in public.
City of Tampa Mayor Jane Castor today announced an initiative with major businesses to get masks for employees and encourage customers to wear masks within Tampa for the health and safety of us all. Stores on the list include Publix, Home Depot, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, and others.
Here are some places where you can get masks:
Nextdoor: Several people have started making masks at home for others and have them for sale on the Nextdoor app. This app keeps you updated on what is happening in your specific neighborhood. Prices seem to be reasonable. Make sure you wash or disinfect masks that you buy to avoid any contamination.
Etsy: A number of home designers have taken to their sewing machines and are selling masks on Etsy. You will want to aim for 100% cotton masks or those made with quilt material. Prices are all over the place and be sure to clean your mask after your receive it in the mail.
Walmart: The most unrealiable of the bunch is Walmart. The megastore has a number of 3rd party sellers on their website selling masks. I bought some a few weeks ago, but they still haven’t shown up. It might require some patience, but it is a resource for getting masks.
VIDA: A fashion start-up based in San Francisco is selling $10 protective masks for the public. The price goes down the more masks you order. 10% of the proceeds are donated to SF-Marin Food Bank and Food Bank NYC to support COVID-19 relief efforts.
StringKing: This is a big supplier based in Los Angeles that can handle large orders for masks. They make individual re-usable masks for $6 and 50 disposable 3 ply masks for $39.99. There is a wait period for shipments so expect to wait a few weeks before your masks will arrive.
Today is Election Day in the City of Tampa for a new Mayor. Perfect day to reflect. I went to the Mayor’s Food Truck Fiesta few weeks ago in Lykes Gaslight Park. The food trucks were all arranged around with the block as they are every month and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was spending his last time as the current Mayor there.
Bob Buckhorn was a big supporter of food trucks in a time period where most municipalities were firmly against local food trucks and had passed some of the most restrictive laws in the nation.
Some reporters at Tampa Bay Times were still writing falsehoods in 2011 about roach coaches in the 1970s, but Buckhorn knew better and proved it with inspections at every rally to show our food trucks are some of the cleanest businesses in town.
#QotD "This (food trucks) is exactly the kind of event that will generate a buzz and excitement in our urban core." Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn
Tampa led the way nationwide in cities that supported food trucks and was rewarded with tourism and local business growth. It has been proven that food trucks help people get their dreams off the ground, and several local businesses in town are testaments of that.
I helped in 2013 to throw the World’s Largest Food Truck Rally EVER at the Florida State Fairgrounds and Bob Buckhorn was a huge supporter of the entire process.
The City of Tampa supported the initiative and helped to the support that helped make the event a success that drew over 30,000 people to the venue and was arguably one of the most successful days in food truck history here in Tampa. I will never forget the support he provided to the event and to the movement in general and I doubt most food truck owners will ever forget that day as well.
He said at the time, “I want to be known as the foodie capital and the king of the food truck movement.”
I literally rode on top of a double-decker food truck (Tropiccool) from ENCORE Tampa! Downtown onto Interstate-4 into the highway and rode in a parade of over 75 food trucks to the Florida State Fairgrounds. Helicopters following behind. It was a moment I may never forget in my life. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was there to kick off that magical moment with all the media of Tampa.
People can have their political disagreements with Bob Buckhorn, but one thing I think everyone can agree with is that Tampa has been lucky to have a mayor who legitimately cares about Tampa and has done everything in his power to make Tampa a better place to live.
From finishing up the Tampa Riverwalk, to being at every restaurant and business Grand Opening imaginable and supporting the Cuban Sandwich Festival to the opening at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park, Bob Buckhorn has been there for this town in many ways. It is obvious that this man loves Tampa and I’m thankful for that. Thank you for your service to our growing City of Tampa.
Hopefully the next mayor will care about Tampa the same way, no matter who they are.
It has been exactly one year since Armature Works opened its doors to the City of Tampa in Tampa Heights.
The historic building and food hall changed the city for the better and gave many restaurateurs and food brands and opportunity to shine on Tampa’s waterfront just outside of Downtown Tampa.
The venue has also served as a coworking space, event space, wedding venue, and more.
One of the owners and operators of Armature Works, Taryn Bruck, reflected on the past and future of the facility:
“We have learned a lot over the past 365 days and look forward to making your experience at Armature Works better than the last. Our success is attributed to our incredible vendors, hard-working team, and most of all our loyal AW fans! We can’t wait to show what we have in store for 2019!”
I talked to a few of the businesses inside the Heights Public Market. Heights Public Market, HPM for short, is the food hall portion of Armature Works. The hall has thousands of customers walk through every week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
I spoke with Stephanie Swanz, owner of Empamamas, and she told me:
“This past year has been one of the most rewarding times of my life and I am forever grateful to Chas, Taryn, Adam, and Frank for the opportunity and believing in Empamamas. Not only has Armature Works become one of the most desirable places to visit in Tampa, but it has completely changed the landscape of the neighborhood and I’m so excited to see their future projects unfold over the next few months”.
Graze 1910 has served over 90,000 eggs to hungry diners in the Heights Public Market according to owners, Ray and Lauren Menendez. If you haven’t enjoyed a mimosa and avocado toast with an egg for breakfast, you should. I did for Valentine’s Day 2018.
Clifford Barsi, Vice-President of Social Enterprises and Food Services at Metroplitan Ministries, reflecting on the past year:
“Metropolitan Ministries is very thankful for the opportunity to expand our Social Enterprise concept, ‘Inside the Box Cafe‘, through the generosity of Armature Works owners/developers: Chas Bruck and Adam Harden. They have given us a platform for our Culinary Program to get exposure for our students and to gain foodie acclaim for our in-house brined, cured, roasted, and smoked meats. That’s Good Food, Doing Good with the help from Good People! #Training+Jobs+Hunger Relief = Good Food Doing Good!”
Felicia “Phe” Lacalle , owner of Hemingway’s, told me this:
My experience at Armature Works has been nothing less than extraordinary, to be in such a spectacular place and to open a modern Cuban restaurant that instills nostalgia in such a beautiful city with amazing history is a blessing! We couldn’t have done it without the support of Armature Works, our amazing guests, and my fabulous staff.
“It’s been an amazing year at Armature Works, and we are so proud to be part of the wonderful space they’ve created here! For Cru, it’s been a great opportunity to engage with guests about wine – helping them to find that perfect glass of wine to enjoy, while also introducing them to new things. The Show & Tell space has been a hit for our Cru U wine classes and walk-around tastings”
Here are some upcoming events at Armature Works:
Saturday, February 9th from 9AM-1PM – Heights Morning Market: Shop around for locally sourced and grown produce, meats, seafood, artisanal food items, packaged jams, sauces, and more on the Armature Works lawn.
Saturday, February 9th from 2PM-4PM: Chinese New Year: Armature Works will celebrate Chinese New Year. It is the Year of the Pig! Watch live performances and enjoy some great from Asian vendors inside the Heights Public Market.
Wednesday, February 13th from 5:30PM-9:30PM – Heights Night Market: Live-music and local vendors will rock the night away in front of the Hillsborough River. This event occurs every 2nd Wednesday of the month.
Thursday, February 14th from 7PM-9PM – Valentine’s Movies on the Lawn – Hitch: Looking for something low-key on Valentine’s Day. Celebrate the day outside at Armature Works with a free public screening of Hitch. Don’t forget your lawn chair or blanket. Popcorn and drinks will be available for purchase as well as food from the 14 vendors inside Heights Public Market. First-come, first-serve. Arriving early is recommended.
Wednesday, February 20th from 6:30PM-9:30PM – Sushi Battle Tampa Bay: Tampa Bay’s hottest sushi competition is back and this year it’s at Armature Works. Restaurants will compete for who makes the best sushi, while attendees will feast on all the sushi they can eat. 21+ event. Tickets are now on-sale.
Saturday, February 23rd from 3PM-8PM – One Year Birthday Bash: Armature Works will celebrate its one year anniversary as Tampa’s largest food hall and historic venue.
Happy Birthday Tampa! Our city turns 130 years old on Saturday, July 15th and will celebrate a day early on Friday, July 14th. The City of Tampa will be handing out FREE Whatever Pops popsicles (while supplies last) from 11AM-2PM at Lykes Gaslight Square Park. The Tampa Bay Lightning & Tampa Bay Buccaneers will also be on hand to help celebrate with give-a-ways, music, and more!
While you are there, be on the lookout for Tampa’s birthday Snapchat filter and share your photos on social media using #TampaTurns130!
Watching the sunset at Curtis Hixon Park especially after one of the many food, music, art, cocktail, or craft beer festivals happening at the waterfront park with the beautiful University of Tampa in the backdrop.
Enjoying Thai food on Sundays when the weather is cool or in the shade in shorts and a tank top at The Wat Thai Temple off Palm River Road. Nothing beats Kanom Krok, Fried Thai Bananas, and $1 Thai Tea. Sitting on the benches there or on the dock waterfront and letting the wind blow in your face.
Dining on the rooftop of The Refinery with friends for special occasions and birthdays and watching their reaction when they taste the food for the first time.
Visiting The Florida Aquarium for the annual SeaGrapes Fine Wine & Food Festival – one of my top events of all time…tons of great food and wine!
Any visit to the Tampa Theatre – basking in the beauty of the outside and inside of the historic building. My favorite experience? Watching Jiro’s Dreams of Sushi on the big screen.
Spending an evening at Anise Gastrobar with friends for delicious cocktails and truffle tator tots. Many of my best nights have started or ended at Anise with friendly bartenders that make great drinks. Not even mention the DJs spinning great music on vinyl.
Indulging in all the Filipino culture and food annually at PhilFest – one of the biggest Filipino cultural celebrations in the country that draws over 10,000 people over 3 days. Lumpia and Carioca take all my money and I do not care! Not to mention the annual hip-hop competition between schools and teams from around the state. Go AFS at USF.
All the great Cuban Sandwiches. Miami has nothing on Tampa. Our annual International Cuban Sandwich Festival puts the others to shame and we can enjoy these excellent sandwiches daily. Don’t forget the Cafe con Leche.
Craft beer. I’ve taken an increased interest over the last few years. Touring Cigar City Brewing was an excellent experience and having an endless supply of great beer around the city and bay area is awesome. I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to all of them, but I’m definitely going to try. Also don’t forget all the awesome craft beer festivals that happen nearly ever 2 weeks or so around the bay.
Sunset Music Festival. I love EDM music and it is great that SMF and the promoters keep a constant flow of top notch DJs coming throughout Tampa Bay all year long eventually leading to this annual music fest. My first visit to Sunset Music Festival 2 years ago, where I saw legends like Tiesto, blew me away. Through all the fans and music – there are also great food trucks and food vendors every year at the festival to keep you energized and dancing.
We are pretty lucky to call Tampa our home. The best thing is every year our city gets a little better! Here’s to many more years of growth and success for the City of Tampa and all of our citizens.