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New Sports Bar Almost Ready For Downtown

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By JANIS D. FROELICH

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TAMPA - Scott Coonfare said he would kick himself if he didn't jump at the chance to open Coonfare's Sports Cafe in downtown Tampa.

``It's a dream,'' he said amid the workers remodeling the place at 502 Tampa St. for a July 28 opening. ``We're incredibly in debt but we couldn't be more excited.''

The ``we'' includes his wife, Dana. The couple bring extensive culinary experiences to that bold move.

Coonfare, 40, was a chef at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg, cooked at Gameworks in Ybor City and was general manager at Ruby Tuesdays in New Tampa. Dana Coonfare, 39, was the pastry chef at the downtown Tampa Waterside Marriott Hotel.

``She's home right now testing out muffins,'' he said.

The menu ranges from beer cheese soup to Santa Fe chicken pasta. They plan a hot and cold food bar for takeouts. Breakfast items include biscuits and sausage gravy and stuffed French toast.

``The emphasis will be on the food,'' Coonfare said. ``Nobody drinks at lunchtime so the kitchen has to be the reason people return.''

Coonfare hopes to have a beer and wine license by the end of September. Working nights to redo the space, which seats 130, Coonfare said he notices a steady crowd at the Spain restaurant across the street.

The cafe's hours will be from 7 a.m. until evening.

``Downtown has changed a lot in the last few years,'' he said. ``As long as people wander in, we'll stay open.''

The Coonfares, who live in Brandon and have two children, ages 2 and 9, want to steer away from their corporate past. ``We won't be stuffy. Our focus is on what the customer wants. If someone wants an egg-white omelet, no problem.''

Servers will dress in sports jerseys, also used to decorate the walls and windows. An Ohio native, Coonfare is an Ohio State University Buckeye fan, so he plans to have viewing parties for that school and others, plus pro teams. ``We'll have 12 widescreen TVs, plus another dozen so everywhere you sit you'll be seeing TVs,'' he said.

Downtown restaurants open at night number 36, compared with 27 last year, said Christine Burdick, president of the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

``A big factor in that growth is Channelside,'' said Burdick. ``But all of downtown is becoming more lively at night and it makes sense,'' she said, citing the national trend of urban centers attracting people after 5 p.m.

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