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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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CK’s, Tampa airport’s rotating rooftop restaurant, closing in June

SOUTH TAMPA - Michael Koller remembers The View at CK’s restaurant in its prime. It had gleaming brass and mahogany finishes, romantic booths and elegant wine displays. A maitre d’ greeted guests in the lounge and escorted them up to the dining room in a private elevator. Koller, who worked as a bartender at the Tampa Airport Marriott’s rotating rooftop restaurant in the early 1980s, called it the “happening” place to wine and dine back in the day. That’s why he was sorry to hear the restaurant will close for good this summer.
“It’s a unique thing,” said Koller, who now works as a contractor at the airport. “I’ve lived here for a very long time, and it’s an icon.” The 40-year-old restaurant, which serves steak and seafood entrees, will cease its spinning on June 29, said Zach Curry, general manager of the Tampa Airport Marriott. The hotel already serves breakfast and lunch in its Café Elise off the lobby, Curry said, so management decided to consolidate all the food options to one venue. CK’s employees will move down to work in Café Elise, and the rotating restaurant will be converted to special event space. “Having all the food and beverage in one place is really the ideal move for us,” he said. CK’s, which has panoramic views of the city and the bay, is about as old as Tampa International Airport itself. Through the years it has remained a constant in an area that has developed and expanded. But times change, said former Tampa mayor Dick Greco. There are new restaurants in the neighborhood, and people don’t stop to eat at the airport as often as once did. “You hate to see something that you’re used to disappear, but it happens,” he said. Greco used to take out-of-town guests to CK’s to get a taste of Tampa and see the views, he said. He remembers how women who put their purses on the floor beside them sometimes would have to get up and retrieve them from across the room after the floor spun beneath them. “We used to go there just because it was different,” said Greco, who plans to take his wife there for dinner one more time before the restaurant closes. The Tampa Airport Marriott is asking anyone with photographs of CK’s in its heyday to send them in. Staffers want to see photos of everything from proms to birthday dinners to anniversary parties, and keep them as mementos, Curry said. The photos will go up on a display board for all to see and, in exchange, CK’s will give guests a free dessert. For Koller, the closing means saying goodbye to a place where he made many memories and long-lasting friendships. “I’ll miss it,” Koller said. “It’s not going to be the same, for sure.”

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