The Tampa Cereal Bar says it’s haunted. Do ghost stories match the story?
TAMPA – Lisa Lawson says she has a deal with the spirits that haunt her businesses Cerealholic Cafe and Afterholic Speakeasy, which share a century-old former church in Ybor City.
She can endure ghostly shenanigans if the spirits allow her to market the haunting.
But ghosts have their own caveat, Lawson said. “Don’t make fun of them.”
She hopes patrons will keep this in mind throughout October, every Thursday through Sunday, when the upstairs breakfast cereal-themed cafe bar and clandestine style bar. 1920s host “The Haunted Tavern: A Dark Pop-Up Cocktail Experience”.
During the 90-minute event, according to a press release, “the descendants of Ichabod Crane” tell ghost stories as “the tavern keeper guides you through a four-part interactive cocktail journey.” .
So are they really the descendants of fiction Legend of Sleepy Hollow protagonist?
“No,” Lawson laughed.
Is their building at 1909 N. 15th St. really haunted?
“Absolutely,” she said.
The Tampa Bay Times reviewed the request.
Lawson said she first realized the building was haunted in September 2020 as she prepared for the January grand opening.
Downstairs, she heard banging upstairs, and vice versa, but never found the source of the noise.
Then objects disappeared. Lawson said she put something on a table and was leaving. He would be gone when she returned.
“I would say to them, ‘Look, I don’t have time to play with you guys,’” she said.
Soon after, Lawson said, the missing item would be back on the table.
Security images, she added, sometimes include orbs, which are floating globes of light associated with spirits. And clients who identified themselves as psychics told him they saw spirits.
The haunting is news for Tessa Shiver Kramer, whose family owned the building in the early 1990s.
Kramer believes in the supernatural – his family also previously owned the Ybor Building at 1915 Republica de Cuba Ave., which is now office space.
This building was an inn under Kramer’s family and so haunted, according to paranormal investigators, that the Travel Channel Dead files the show dubbed it “Hotel Hell”.
But the church? “We never noticed anything,” Kramer said. Yet, she added, “if it wasn’t haunted, it could be now.”
Deborah Frethem wrote Haunted Tampa: Spirits of the Bay, who details local ghost tales. She said she had “heard the building was haunted. But I don’t know the story.
According to Max Herman, whose Ybor City Ghost Tour includes a stop at Cerealholic Cafe and Afterholic Speakeasy, the ghost story unfolds as follows:
The organizer of a cigar strike in 1927 negotiated a settlement with the factory owners.
“He said he would end it but he needed one thing,” Herman said, “a large sum of money to pay the workers” for their missed time.
The owners agreed, but the organizer left town with his girlfriend and used the money to pay for an operation.
They returned to Tampa a year or two later to ask her father’s permission to marry. He agreed, but only if they got married in the church that now houses Lawson’s businesses.
While the couple were preparing for the wedding with a priest in the basement of the church, a hit man hired by the owners of the factory killed the future groom.
And it is, Herman said, that haunts the building today.
“I like a good story,” Rodney Kite-Powell of the Tampa Bay History Center said, “but there must be something behind it.”
So to what extent is this story based on facts?
The building was indeed originally a church. Built in 1911, it was inhabited by the Clark Memorial Baptist Church in the 1950s.
There were strikes throughout 1927, but they had nothing to do with labor issues that required a negotiator or a settlement to end.
Cigar workers have walked out of factories and onto the streets on several occasions, according to Kite-Powell, as part of global protests in solidarity with two Italian immigrants who have allegedly been wrongly convicted of murder in Massachusetts.
The Times could not find any records of a murder in the church.
But there was a gangland nearby that was killing at that time.
In 1928, in what the newspapers described as a gambling feud, a man was shot dead inside an illegal casino one block from the church. He later died in a medical clinic which was also a block away.
Lawson said psychics claim to see other spirits as well: children playing, a priest who appears to be unhappy that the old church is a bar and the victim of a fire.
The church also served as a school, according to the news archive, and Reverend WH Clark, whose church was named, had strict beliefs that included banning films because he said they encouraged adultery. The third and fourth floors of the building were destroyed in a fire, but the Times could not find a report to learn the year or if there were any casualties.
Lawson said non-believers are welcome to attend his October events, but warns those guests should keep their opinions quiet.
When she hosted a similar event in February, a woman scoffed at the existence of ghosts.
“Just like she did, shot glasses fall off the wall and a table collapses,” Lawson said. “When ghosts don’t like to be said about them, they let you know.”
The Haunted Tavern: A Dark Pop-Up Cocktail Experience
Where: Cerealholic Cafe and Afterholic Speakeasy at 1909 N. 15th St. in Tampa.
When: Thursdays at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., Fridays at 6 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m., and Sundays at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. in October.
Tickets: $ 55 and include four cocktails.