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Ybor's legacy on display at new Latin nightclub

Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 12:53 AM

A club that pays homage to old Ybor City, serving as a tribute to the area's cigar industry and Latin culture, will open in the East Seventh Avenue building that once housed the notorious Club Empire.

Factoria will have lots of Latin influence and resemble a rustic cigar factory inside, said Manny Alvarez, a partner in the management group that owns the business.

Factoria plans to open soon at 1902 E. Seventh Ave.

The new business will stand in stark contrast to the former Club Empire, Alvarez said. Club Empire shut down weeks after a deadly shooting last year.

"There's no comparison," said Alvarez, an Ybor City resident whose grandfather was a cigar roller. "We plan to be very friendly to the community and the neighborhood."

The new club won't cater only to young adults; it also will have functions for an older generation.

"We want to be a community center, not just a nighttime discotheque," Alvarez said.

Factoria will offer live Latin music or Latin disc jockeys and won't play rap or hip hop, he said. It might explore more than just the Latin culture, however, with oldies music or a disco night.

During nighttime Latin events, the bar will have a stern dress code, not allowing sneakers or caps.

Factoria will have three bar stations. One will pay tribute to the Rough Riders, with memorabilia from the group.

The club will serve mojitos and have professionals rolling cigars. There also will be memorabilia of cigar factories inside. And during the daytime on Saturdays, Alvarez said, it is possible there will be functions with dominoes and live music.

"It's kind of hard to find the old culture of Ybor in Ybor today," Alvarez said. "This will do that."

Tom Keating, president of the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, said the idea is positive for the community.

"It's a great building, it's an interesting concept, and I plan to go there and listen to music," he said.

The concept is different from what Club Empire offered. Empire drew rough, sometimes violent customers and led potential customers to avoid other businesses on the block, nearby business owners and managers said.

In 2002, a bouncer was shot to death outside the club. Four years later, another person was stabbed to death in an adjacent parking lot during a brawl. And in December 2009, an argument that began inside the club ended outside with a 21-year-old man shot in the chest.

In October 2011, Leslie Jones Jr., 20, was shot dead inside the club. Another man, Ahmaud Black, 19, was shot in the chest.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn said it's his understanding that Factoria will appeal to a different demographic mix than Club Empire.

"If they want to run a legitimate business with positive influences, that's nothing but good," Buckhorn said. "Ybor City needs to get rid of the thugs and get rid of the club owners that cater to the thugs."

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