Community Rallies to Save Restaurant

Restaurants are more than a way to feed people. They're a way to strengthen community bonds. A long-running restaurant can become an urban institution for young and old. In some cases, a restaurant's closure may inspire the community to take action to bring it back.

Ybor City's Hot Spot Jamaican restaurant was the recipient of a lot of love after the city forced the restaurant to shut down due to a lack of permits. Customers have since donated more than $15,000 in cash and supplies, including a new stove and fire suppression system, to reopen the restaurant and give the owner back his job.

Cephas Gilbert, the owner, is known for his warm yet blunt personality. He's been known to tell other customers that they're fat and need to control their weight through his healthy Caribbean cuisine. Some people have taken him up on the offer and have successfully lost weight!

The locals knew that the restaurant wasn't properly licensed, but the food and service were so good that no one cared. Police and local politicians would get in line just to have Mr. Gilbert's food. Even the Mayor of Tampa was known to frequent the restaurant. However, when a customer threatened to snitch about the licensing and he called her bluff, the restaurant got shut down. Then there was a fire.

Fortunately, all that is in the past now. The repairs are complete, the licenses are in order, and Mr. Gilbert can continue to serve his food to the locals of Ybor City.


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