Ybor turning into RNC party central

By Josh Rojas, Reporter
Last Updated: Saturday, August 25, 2012, 9:20 AM EDT


It won't be all politics when the RNC comes to town on Monday.

Some Ybor City business owners say they’re hosting some exclusive parties during the RNC.

“Most of these events are super private. They’re not advertising them at all,” said Amphitheatre owner John Santoro. “Honestly, it’s mums the word on all these parties down here.”

Santoro says he’s hosting one of those exclusive parties on Monday, the first night of the convention.

“I don’t have anything to give up on that particular party,” he said. “It’s a closed room, private affair, booked out months ago.”

But the dance club owner said he can talk about a party organized by Rock the Vote on Tuesday night. Superstar DJ Steve Aoki is headlining that event.  

“The amphitheater itself is known for electronic music. Steve Aoki is one of the pinnacle house DJs in the field,” Santoro said. “It’s organized by Rock the Vote and they are targeting, I believe, young voters to come in and register.”

Santoro said that party is sold out.

A block away, on Ybor City’s 7th Avenue, is the Carne Chophouse. The owner, Jason Fernandez, said the National Journal rented out his restaurant for the RNC.  

“The dining area will be made into a stage. There’ll be a giant screen backdrop floor to ceiling,” Fernandez said. “They’ve got parties each evening. One for Microsoft, one for Nascar, Bank of America and Prudential Insurance.”

While we were interviewing Fernandez, a couple of Michigan State Police Officers showed up to discuss security. Fernandez said Michigan Governor Rick Snyder plans to stop by the restaurant on Monday.  The restaurant owner said the secret service has also talked to him about other VIPs who may show up.

“Ybor City is going to be the hub of the convention,” Fernandez said. “I mean everybody’s going to be down here. If you want to have a good time you come to Ybor City.”

Fernandez said his other Ybor City restaurants, Bernini and Green Iguana, will host smaller private parties but will remain open to the public all week.

But the biggest event Fernandez is preparing for is at the Kress building in downtown Tampa.

“We’re catering the food and doing the bar. About 1,000 guests an evening,” he said. “It is a big VIP party. The “who’s who” of Washington and the Republican Party. So, we’re excited to be a part of it.”  

Fernandez said that party has one bar made into ship and another on a carousel.

Both Santoro and Fernandez said RNC should be good for business and Ybor City.

“I think that Ybor itself was planned by the RNC as the designated entertainment district for Tampa,” said Santoro.

“Viva Ybor City,” said Fernandez. “Bring on the RNC every four-hours.”