Saturday, March 17, 2018
Real Estate

Carefree but hardworking, partner in Beer Can Island just wants to hang out

APOLLO BEACH — Even on a foggy Wednesday morning, the newest addition to seven-acre Pine Key — better known as Beer Can Island — rises from the mist along the mainland shore of the Apollo Beach Nature Preserve.

It’s a floating tiki bar, the size of a tennis court, docked there by Beer Can Island’s new owners — the talk of the local boating community with their recent purchase of the popular party and camping spot.

They’re hearing playful jealousy, for the most part, from people saying they would have bought the island had they known the owners were willing to sell for just $63,650. And then there are the follow-up questions: Who are these guys and how did they end up with their own island?

"It just kind of happened," co-owner Cole Weaver said with an aw-shucks smile as he walked visitors through his new getaway and business venture. "We’re just four guys who want to have a good time."

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Owners needed a place to dock their floating bar

The path to this venture runs through the owners’ carefree yet hardworking natures. It was not so much a business plan that brought them here as going with the flow and welcomg the chance to get their own hands dirty.

Standing 6-foot-7 with an athletic build and scraggly beard, wearing baggy jeans and a t-shirt, blond hair tucked under a trucker’s hat, the 32-year-old Weaver looks like Patrick Swayze as Bodhi from 1991’s Point Break, minus the thieving streak.

Splitting his time between Colorado and the Tampa Bay area, he lives on a boat docked in Gulfport when he isn’t camping in a tent on his new island.

He appears to have no worries, not even about the musings of those who wonder whether his ownership group Tiki Bay Bar LLC will be open to lawsuits by keeping the island open to the public.

"We just hope everyone wants to have fun and not ruin it," he says with a shrug.

How about a hurricane wiping out his investment?

"We’ll still own the submerged property, so we’ll still be able to anchor the tiki bar."

Pushed for a timeline on a grand opening, he says simply, "We just want to do good for the island."

Raised in Denver, Weaver says he always preferred wake-boarding, scuba diving and making money lifeguarding to snow skiing and the mountains.

Now a real estate agent in Colorado with a history of fixing and flipping homes, he came to Tampa 18 months ago to look at boats for starting a charter business.

Then he met Russell Loomis, the man with the plan.

A native of Wisconsin who moved to the Tampa area in 1995, Loomis took a backpacking trip to Peru in 2008 that was supposed to last a few months.

Seven years later, he finally returned to Tampa with a wife, two kids and an idea.

He’d read about Richart Sowa, known for turning 150,000 plastic bottles into a floating island off the coast of Cancun and thought, "Why not one here?"

The first person he pitched was James Wester, a Land O’ Lakes native and friend of 15 years. Wester has a background in night club promotion and subcontracting, making him a perfect partner for the project, said Loomis, now a 40-year-old software developer living in St. Petersburg.

"Had anyone else called me with the idea, I’d have thought they were full of it," said Wester, 40, known as DJ West. "But I knew Russ was going to do it with or without me, and I wanted to do something unique."

Weaver joined the team next. His friend Colt Blattner from Denver had also once lived in Peru and during his time there met Loomis.

When he heard Weaver was going to Tampa, Blattner suggested his two friends meet. And upon learning of Loomis’ idea, Weaver said, he scrapped his plans to start a charter business and got in on building an island.

The original design would double as a houseboat for rentals.

Then they visited Waterworld, a floating bar in Destin, and its owner gave them some advice. "He told us to make it a bar," Weaver said. "So, we did."

With the help of friends, they built Tiki Bay Island, a floating, motorized tiki bar platform built on top 258 55-gallon plastic drums.

Weaver estimates it cost $112,000 to complete and is worth $350,000.

It was initially parked among the mangroves at 13300 Gandy Blvd. in St. Petersburg, opened in March to host private parties. But neighbors complained about the noise, so off the trio went in search of a new home.

They needed a fourth financial partner so Loomis reached out to friend John Gadd, a Virginia native and former Tampa resident coincidentally living and playing music in Denver but who had never met Weaver.

"It sounded great, a place that was our own space," said Gadd, 40. "I never pictured we’d get a real island."

The property was not for sale, Wester said.

"The last owners were more, like, helping us out. If we would not have built Tiki Bay Island they would have said no. But they liked what we were doing and that we had a plan to nurture the island and improve it."

They can’t sell alcohol on the island yet, but they open the docked tiki bar as a place for visitors to lounge.

They’ve created walking paths through the island by clearing fallen trees.

And gone are the piles of trash that littered the island’s green center, 70 bags full. All that remains are a few scraps here and there and a cross-shaped wooden headstone memorializing someone named Tommy Jackson.

"We’ll keep it," Weaver said, noting that he checked and there is no body. "Make him famous."

As for Weaver, fame is not what he’s after.

By 1 p.m. Wednesday, the fog had cleared and a few boaters pulled up to Beer Can Island. As they sat at the tiki bar and sipped beers they had brought, they finally brought up the question of who owned the place.

"I don’t introduce myself to people on the island as the owner," Weaver said. "I just want to hang out."

Contact Paul Guzzo at Follow @PGuzzoTimes.

Here's a quick look at three new Tampa Bay projects

Here's a quick look at three new Tampa Bay projects

Almost a decade into Florida’s latest real estate cycle, so much is happening in the Tampa Bay area that it’s hard to keep track of it all. Here are two significant projects you probably haven’t heard much about — a new hotel ...
Published: 03/16/18
Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe on Clearwater Beach is suing over a proposed hotel

Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe on Clearwater Beach is suing over a proposed hotel

CLEARWATER — Typically, a new hotel with lots of hungry guests would be good for nearby restaurants. But the owner of Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe isn’t happy about a proposed 7-story, 88-room hotel that would partly surround it. In a lawsuit against ...
Published: 03/15/18
Real-life Margaritaville wows parrothead retirees

Real-life Margaritaville wows parrothead retirees

DAYTONA BEACH — Near the corner of Latitude Drive and Margaritaville Avenue, 72-year-old Jack Conroy explained why he wouldn’t mind spending the rest of his years surrounded by all things Jimmy Buffett. "It’d be a good lifestyle," he said, following ...
Published: 03/15/18
Dunedin affordable housing project touts energy efficiency

Dunedin affordable housing project touts energy efficiency

DUNEDIN — Mary Robinson walked her dog, Toby, stopping to study the new townhomes dotting Lorraine LeLand Street. "I have a dream to settle near my family some day,’’ she said. "I really like how close to the (Pinellas) Trail these are, much closer t...
Published: 03/15/18
Citizens, hit with $12.7 million verdict, acted in ‘monumental bad faith,’ homeowner says

Citizens, hit with $12.7 million verdict, acted in ‘monumental bad faith,’ homeowner says

PALM HARBOR — In 2007, residents of the Cloverplace Condos began to notice unmistakable signs of sinkhole activity.Walls were cracking, stucco was peeling off, doors no longer closed as they should. Depressions formed alongside units. Yet even as cla...
Published: 03/14/18
For four years, she’s been locked in a fight with Home Depot over a leaking roof

For four years, she’s been locked in a fight with Home Depot over a leaking roof

TAMPA — Evelyn Canzenza has nothing but time to think about her roof. She wakes up in her bedroom to a water stain where the wall on the right meets the ceiling. When she does laundry, she passes her former homeschooling room that has two more water ...
Published: 03/09/18
Lawyer accused of video voyeurism permanently disbarred

Lawyer accused of video voyeurism permanently disbarred

As expected, the Florida Supreme Court has permanently banned Tampa Bay attorney James Patrick Stanton Jr. from practicing law in the state. RELATED COVERAGE: Attorney accused of secretly videotaping women agrees to permanent disbarment Stanton, w...
Published: 03/09/18
Tampa Bay Rays’ push toward Ybor City sparks real estate sales

Tampa Bay Rays’ push toward Ybor City sparks real estate sales

TAMPA — Not long after the Tampa Bay Rays said they wanted to build a new stadium in Ybor City, real estate agent Brenda Christian got the listing on a century-old bungalow near the proposed site. She posted the address and description of the house ...
Published: 03/09/18
He built a Ritz-Carlton and two Tampa Bay condo towers — and they’d all fit in a closet

He built a Ritz-Carlton and two Tampa Bay condo towers — and they’d all fit in a closet

ORLANDO— Behind the garage doors of the last house on a quiet street in Orlando lies a Lilliputian world.Here, condo towers soar three feet high. Beach umbrellas are the size of quarters, lounge chairs no bigger than pencil erasers. Pinkie-length yac...
Published: 03/08/18

Tampa Bay is a hot hotel market

Times Staff WriterIn another sign of Tampa Bay’s strong economy, the bay area tied with Orlando for the most hotel sales last year. Each had 26 sales, six more than the runner-up Miami-South Florida area.The volume of Tampa Bay sales "represents the ...
Published: 03/06/18