Department of Transportation to tear down Cafe Hey

This article was published in The Minaret in 2015.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has recently tried to expedite expansions to I-275 that would involve knocking down many historic buildings and businesses in downtown Tampa, including Café Hey.

Café Hey owner Chung Choy said he has not yet been directly contacted by FDOT, but became aware of the situation by word-of-mouth.

Sunshine Citizens, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to representing a broad coalition advocating for smarter transportation and growth policy in the Tampa area, is trying to stop the expansion from happening.

“They are going to all of the meetings, they are lobbying, they are essentially mobilizing people to find out more about [the expansion],” Chung said.

Chung tries to go to as many FDOT meetings as possible, though his busy schedule limits his availability.

“A lot of important parts of this neighborhood would be destroyed,” said Chung.

Café Hey had an opening show for their new mural on the outer side of the building facing I-275 in mid September.

“It exemplifies that one of the building that they are knocking down is actually a very important building,” Chung said.

“Everything on the mural represents something in this neighborhood, which is Tampa Heights,” said Chung. “For example, the trolley car, the tobacco leaves, and a lot of the verbiage behind it.”

“A lot of people have been very supportive of the fact that we put it up, despite Tallahassee’s plans,” said Chung.

Chung said that if the building were to be knocked down, he would have to relocate. Chung has been looking at a few different places, but does not yet have any specific plans.

“If I find an ideal place, I will have to act on it,” said Chung.

Café Hey is known for a variety of things, including their food dishes, including their vegetarian and vegan options, sandwiches and catering.

Once a month, Café Hey hosts a vegan lunch, though they always have vegan options available for customers, in order to allow people to choose to eat a certain way, according to Chung.

Local artists also perform every Friday at Café Hey, and open mic nights are held every Thursday to showcase local talents, from poetry reciting to live music.

Café Hey also hosts art shows roughly every month, showcasing pieces, and they are also a notable art venue, and sell pieces of art.