Could it be a little wishful thinking?
Drivers heading north on Land O’ Lakes Boulevard saw a surprise announcement on the sign that once shared dinner specials at the old Mosquito Grill & Bar: the long-rumored Hooters chain was coming to that location next year.
The problem, however, is it’s not true. At least for now.
“I’ve called it one of Land O’ Lakes’ biggest urban legends,” said Meredith Kleker, executive director of the Central Pasco Chamber of Commerce. “All I’ve ever heard about that is rumors, and we’ve been hearing them for years.”
In fact, Hooters was rumored to be coming to Land O’ Lakes in 2012 when Rapscallions was still open at 4422 Land O’ Lakes Blvd. The owner of the restaurant, however, told an online publication at the time that it wasn’t true, nor were reports that Rapscallions was closing.
Rapscallions did indeed close a short time later, but Hooters didn’t swoop in to take over the lakeside property. Mosquito Grill & Bar opened there instead.
That restaurant shut down last spring, once again opening the rumor floodgates that included the Clearwater-based chain. And since Centennial Bank claimed ownership of the 2 acres of land that covers the two lakeside lots along U.S. 41, the sign announcing the new Hooters was even more believable.
There are plans for the land, and there is even a potential buyer working to get it under contract, but it’s not for Hooters, said Bill Nye, a commercial real estate broker in Wesley Chapel.
“There is definitely not a Hooters going in there,” Nye said, although he said it was far too early to give details on what might go there instead.
Nye’s name came into the mix after he called Pasco County officials three weeks ago asking about the property, according to Ruthann Dattoli of the county’s planning and development department. His questions centered around county requirements that might come into place if a developer decided to raze the 42-year-old building, or simply remodel it.
Nye also mentioned that the neighboring residential lot to the north could be turned into a parking lot, Dattoli said.
It would be difficult for a restaurant chain to build something new on the land, Nye said, because its lakeside location has far different environmental requirements than what existed in the 1970s.
“It’s going to be almost impossible to tear that building down and put another one there,” said Nye, the owner of Nye Commercial Advisors. “There are some stringent setbacks to adhere to, and the county is not going to bend very much on them.”
Centennial foreclosed on a $900,000 mortgage on the property owed by C of Pasco Inc., last month, which purchased the property in 2010. At the time, it was the home of Rapscallions, which was featured in a 2011 episode of the former Travel Channel program “Man v. Food,” hosted by Adam Richman.
An ownership group associated with Rapscallions purchased the property in 2005 for just under $1 million, and continued to operate the restaurant there even after selling to C of Pasco in 2010.
Mosquito struggled to follow Rapscallions despite plans to completely remodel the location. Yet, no matter who takes over that land, it’s a prime piece of real estate, said the chamber’s Kleker said.
“If you look at that location, it’s a good location,” she said. “And it’s not too close to other stores.”
It’s also not far from Ukulele Brand’s, which has a lakeside restaurant on the other side of Land O’ Lakes Boulevard. Yet, even if a new restaurant goes into the Mosquito spot, Kleker feels there’s still plenty of business to go around.
“I don’t think it would hurt Uke’s at all,” she said. “It’s good to have a thriving business in our community. And while we love our small businesses, we still love all businesses that can thrive here.”
A spokeswoman for Hooters of America Inc., and the related original company Hooters Inc. — which both own Hooters restaurants throughout the country — told The Laker/Lutz News Monday there were no plans to open a Hooters in Land O’ Lakes.
That would leave the closest Hooters restaurant in Port Richey, which is owned by Hooters Inc., the original Hooters company that owns a handful of locations in the Tampa Bay area, as well as Chicago and New York City.
Correction to print edition story: Hooters of America and Hooters Inc. both continue to operate and open Hooters restaurants throughout the United States. Although Hooters of America, based in Atlanta, is responsible for the national brand, Hooters Inc. in Clearwater — owned by the chain founders — still control the Tampa Bay territory, as well as additional restaurants in Chicago and New York. Hooters Inc. controls all the Hooters restaurants in the Tampa Bay region, including the one at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. A story in the Nov. 19 edition of The Laker/Lutz News stated otherwise.
Published November 19, 2014
See this story in print: Click Here