Ulele restaurant set to open in Tampa Heights - FOX 13 News

Ulele restaurant set to open in Tampa Heights

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A revitalized Tampa landmark is a couple weeks away from its big debut, and you can get a sneak peek at it this weekend.

Ulele, a multi-million-dollar project by the Columbia Restaurant Group, is expected to open officially next month, but participants in "Richard's Father's Day Family Walk and Jog" can check out the Native American-inspired restaurant with their registration fee.

The event takes place Saturday, June 15 at 8 a.m., and proceeds will benefit the Advanced Prostate Cancer Collaboration at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa.

The Ulele Restaurant is taking over the old water works building in Tampa Heights. Richard Gonzmart, President of the Columbia Restaurant Group, took the restaurant's name from the spring that runs beside it.

"It's very emotional for me. I think about my mother as a young girl living down the street and playing in this area, and as a young boy, not realizing this existed, and this water gave life to my family for over a hundred years," Gonzmart said.

That spring water was one of the city's first water sources, and the building dates back to 1903.

"It was active until the 1930s, and they outgrew the volume of the water," Gonzmart said. "Now the water flows into the Hillsborough River, and we're hoping people will come and see the sea life that's thriving in this delicious water."

Ulele is also the name of a Native American princess, whose story of saving a young Spanish sailor touched Gonzmart's heart. He will honor her with a bronze life-sized statue at the front of the building.

According to Gonzmart, there will be two levels of dining, with the upstairs section reserved for private parties. There will also be a brewery, a beer garden, a rooftop bar, and a modern take on a "barbacoa."

Gonzmart wants it to be a successful business venture, but also a boost for the neighborhood.

"It was a well-to-do area, but it's fallen on hard times," Gonzmart said. "It's more than just a business to me. It's about giving hope and building self-esteem for the people who live here."

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