July 1, 2013

The RITZ Ybor & Czar Combine & Merge to become Czar at The RITZ...

BREAKING NEWS FROM CREATIVE LOAFING:

Big changes are afoot in Ybor City’s nightlife. A new business merger between The RITZ Ybor and Czar finds both the venue and nightclub re-opening as one grandiose complex that takes the best from both worlds — concerts by headline talent and DJ-curated dance nights like Filthy Richard and The Peoples' Party — and puts it all beneath one roof, at The RITZ. The recreated venture will be called Czar at The RITZ.

Sandi Hein, who currently manages Czar and will be leading the charge at the new entertainment venue, confirmed the news today. “We start doing the renovations at The Ritz on Monday. We’re going in and spending a lot of money to make it look like a nightclub instead of a live music venue.”

Hein said she and her crew always knew the building on Seventh Avenue and 15th Street wasn’t their permanent home. “We’ve had several different boutique hotels and other developers come look at the space, and there were a couple of scares where we were like, ‘Okay we have to move out now!’”

The move was confirmed and accelerated recently when building owner/Ybor nightlife entrepreneur Alan Kahana received a grant from the city to restore the historic Czar building and made plans to move the nightclub out. He wanted to keep its organizational infrastructure intact, however, and told Hein, “‘Just let us know where you want to go, we’ll put Czar wherever you want to.’”

In the end, they were approached by the Capitanos, owners of The RITZ building. Hein said it came as a surprise. “We didn’t even think that that was on the table; we thought that was a pipe dream, to be able to move right there. Because we all feel as strongly about that building [The RITZ] as we do about our building [Czar].”

Hein called it a complete merger, since both businesses will stay essentially the same. The three-room, three-nights-a-week nightclub format of Czar will remain, and The RITZ will continue to host concerts. “It’s a perfect marriage. I think we all got super lucky and we’re all really excited about it.”

There will be a few changes, however. As far as the live music goes, Czar at The RITZ will generally try to avoid hosting concerts on Fridays — the most popular and well-attended club night of the week — but Hein is quick to acknowledge that they are already looking at making exceptions to that rule, depending on the artist. “Any other night, most of the shows at The RITZ will end at about 11, and with us, our crowd doesn’t even come in until about 11, so it will be a really easy transition. There might be a couple of DJ shows here and there that will run late or we’ll incorporate into the night, but for the most part, it will be super easy for us to do.”

The RITZ is also getting rehabbed to make it more night-club suitable. “We’re doing a complete renovation of the inside,” Hein said, “so we’re taking out walls and building bars, make it easier for people at live shows to get cocktails, make it easier for people to circulate around. We’re bringing over our complete sound system and supplementing those because this place is much bigger. We’re putting a 40’x40’ LED ceiling into the main room, which is pretty cool, and we’re bringing over our video mapping that we do on Friday nights.”

Renovations at The RITZ start Monday. of Montreal performs the last live show at the old Czar building on July 6, and the club closes its doors a few weeks after that. The idea is to re-open as Czar at The RITZ within a week of the move, with the grand opening tentatively set for the first or second week of August. “We’re still playing around with a firm date.”

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