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World of Beer opening Brandon location in April

BRANDON - The World of Beer is expanding into Brandon, giving beer lovers 500 options from around the world and local micro brewers a new location to sell their suds. World of Beer is expected to open in early April at 2878 Providence Lakes Boulevard, near Kohl’s department store, just south of Causeway Boulevard. The little business started with one bar in Westchase by Florida Panhandle natives Scott Zepp and Matt LaFon, has grown to 36 World of Beer locations in 11 states and includes six in the Tampa Bay area, where the business is headquartered. Jason Rappaport and his partner, Philippe Theodore, who own exclusive rights to the franchise in the Tampa area, chose Brandon as their next location because of the demographics.
“We really felt there was a need for the concept out there,” said Rappaport, a 34-year-old Tampa native who just stumbled in on the World of Beer concept at the ground floor. “The location we are going in is right off Causeway Boulevard where there is a huge density of Class A apartment complexes. We are adjacent to LA Fitness” and several restaurants that will offer food to the pub’s customers. “Essentially, we are going to start offering food from within, but one of the other things we do is allow nearby restaurants to bring in food to our customers,” Rappaport said. That will include Tijuana Flats and Jersey Mike’s Subs. He is also working on a deal with the nearby Mellow Mushroom pizza franchise. Theodore and Rappaport are constructing a huge patio behind the 3,000 square-foot restaurant and World of Beer will offer live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Some of the pub’s offerings will be locally brewed beer. There will be 50 brews on tap and another 500 varieties in bottles. The World of Beer story is Florida-centric. And yes, there is a hurricane involved. The idea among two old friends from Gulf Breeze to open the kind of bar they like to frequent grew out of a mutual dream, drizzled with a bit of necessity. Zepp was teaching high school and coaching baseball in the Panhandle when Hurricane Ivan blew in and wiped out a good chunk of the place. The house Zepp had purchased on Pensacola Beach was destroyed in the storm. He called his good friend LaFon, who was living in Tampa and working in Brandon and told him he was headed down. Now or never, Zepp told LaFon. And they opened the Courtside Grill on Ulmerton Road. Zepp ran it while LaFon continued with his job selling safety equipment at Ritz Safety Equipment in Brandon. But Zepp was zeroing in on a specialty – craft beer. Fast forward through a few business ventures and the two opened World of Beer in Westchase. “We wanted to create a place we wanted to go, but hadn’t seen before,” LaFon said. Their parents bought in – putting up collateral to start the new pub, which was an almost immediate hit. The word “franchise” came up quickly. The franchise business is now headed by former OSI Restaurant Partners (Outback Steakhouse) Chief Operating Officer Paul Avery. Zepp and LaFon are still officers in the corporation. Rappaport’s involvement was almost a fluke, he said. He was attending a meeting in Westchase in 2008 when he learned about the concept behind the pub. “I walked in and asked to speak to one of the owners and we started talking from there,” the former real estate exec said. Rappaport and Theodore now own exclusive rights to World of Beer franchises in the greater Houston area and for the entire state of Colorado, where they plan to open their first location in Denver on March 13. To find out about the opening date for Brandon, go to World of Beer Brandon on facebook. That’s also the place to go for those seeking a job at the Brandon location. “They can go on facebook and reach out to General Manager John Hanley,” Rappaport said. “We like to have a facebook party” when a new location opens, Rappaport said. “You have to like us on our facebook page to find out about the opening day party for friends and family. The official grand opening will be 30 to 45 days after we open.”

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