Staff on Thursday conducted practice service sessions at Boca, which is set to open Monday, Oct. 27.I had announced earlier that SoHo Hospitality Group of Tampa would be opening three new concepts on the corner of Park Avenue North and East Canton Avenue in Winter Park. That's no longer true. Wait, don't get upset — the bars and restaurants are still going to open. In fact two are already taking customers and the third has set Monday as its opening day.
It's the SoHo part that has changed.
Because of a dispute among its partners involving the group's restaurant CopperFish in Tampa, SoHo Hospitality has divided into two separate entities. According to an article by Laura Reiley of the Tampa Bay Times, Kevin Enderle and Chas Bruck have left CopperFish to their former partner, Gordon Davis, and have formed BE-1. Under that company, Enderle and Bruck will keep Boca Kitchen Bar and Market and Ciro's Speakeasy and Supper Club in the Tampa area and the three Winter Park businesses: Boca, Atlantic Beer & Oyster and Park Social.
The split settles a dispute that included a lawsuit filed by Howard Park Properties, where CopperFish is located, against SoHo for nonpayment of rent. Howard Park Properties is owned by Gordon Davis. The breakup settled the lawsuit.
All that unpleasantness (there also apparently were fines from the city levied against CopperFish), which was resolved in September, may have been part of the reason that the Winter Park properties have taken so long to finally open. The delays certainly have led to several of the staff, some who told me they had been waiting several months with the promise that the businesses would be open "soon," leaving the company. Among those who departed were Dominic Rice, who was hired to be the chef of the downstairs restaurant that will be called Boca, and a bar manager Park Social, who told me that as many as seven other bartenders and servers left when he did, about 10 days ago. A spokesman for the restaurant group denied that there had been any departures other than Rice.
Atlantic Beer & Oyster opened the weekend of October 11. It occupies a stylized shanty off Park Avenue in the Hidden Gardens. I stopped in the other evening and would have stayed except that there were no other guests at the bar (and I didn't want to sit there alone). There was also an odd smell that I can only describe as the odor that comes from a refrigerator that has sat empty without power and with the door closed for a long time. I hope they figure out how to get rid of that smell because I like the look of the place, and I'd love to try the oysters and a cold beer.
As I was leaving, I was approached by a young man on Park Avenue who handed me a card for Park Social and asked if I would like to go upstairs and check it out. Park Social is supposed to be a speakeasy, so it seemed a little incongruous to have someone hawking for it on the sidewalk, but there you go. (In the future, the young man told me, I would have to call the number on the card that he handed me and get the password, which is to be entered on the keypad of the pay phone next to the door that leads the the stairs to Park Social.)
I went upstairs and sat at the bar and tried one of the retro cocktails and a flatbread from the menu. It would be unfair for me to give a review based on that early visit, so I'll reserve comments for another time.
Downstairs, the staff of Boca was conducting practice service for invited guests. A sign out front said that the restaurant would open on Monday. As I told you previously, Rocky Tarantello, who had collaborated on the original Boca in Tampa, has taken over the Winter Park kitchen as the group's corporate chef.
More to come.