Jacksonville-based Mojo BBQ will place its eighth restaurant in the Federal Building on Tennessee Avenue in downtown Lakeland, Broadway Real Estate Services announced this morning.
The owners hope to open the restaurant by the end of the year, Broadway Vice President Jack Strollo said at a downtown update meeting sponsored by the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority and the Downtown Lakeland Partnership.
Mojo’s started in the Lakewood area of Jacksonville Beach as a “Southern blues kitchen” with a laid-back atmosphere. Its other locations are in North Florida: Gainesville, Fleming Island, Avondale, Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine with another planned for Ocala.
Each restaurant is branded slightly differently, and the Lakeland store will be named in a way that will differentiate it from the unrelated Mojo’s Wings, Burgers and Beer on Memorial Boulevard, Stollo said. Like other locations, the Lakeland restaurant will feature a whiskey bar, he said.
Mojo has been placing its restaurants in downtown areas, Strollo said. The owners are unworried about the lack of a nearby public parking garage because they’re counting on a robust lunch business from downtown workers and street parking is available in the evenings, he said.
Broadway holds a 30-year lease on the city-owned Federal Building, which was built in 1917 and previously housed Lakeland’s main post office as well as a host of federal agencies.
Broadway President Matt Clark told city commissioners in February that about half of the 11,000-square-foot first floor would be leased to a restaurant, and that it’s possible a second restaurant would fill the rest of the ground floor.
The building at Tennessee Avenue and Lemon Street, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, also has a 5,700-square-foot basement.
After the federal government gave the building to the city in 2005, the city spent $1.3 million refurbishing it. Clark has said Broadway expects to spend up to $1.5 million readying the building for tenants.
Julie Townsend, director of the Downtown Development Authority, said the addition of Mojo and the recently announced Posto 9 to the mix of restaurants helps make downtown a dining destination, she said.
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