Silver Ring Cafe Must Vacate 35-Year Downtown Space by Sept. 1 

Silver Ring Cafe has been pressing Cuban sandwiches and dishing up its signature chicken and yellow rice meals from its Tennessee Avenue perch on downtown Lakeland’s Munn Park for 35 years. Come Sept. 1, the restaurant will need to find a new space to lease or cease to exist.

“The landlord informed me the other day that my lease is up in August and she is not planning to renew it. She has plans for somebody else” to lease the space, Silver Ring owner Tim Altman said this morning.

Altman, 63, opened the restaurant in 1986 as a franchise of the original 1947 Silver Ring in Ybor City. He said he ideally wants to keep the business open if he can find a new site.

“I’m not sure what’s out there right now in trying to look for another location with what’s going on with the real estate market,” he said. “Customers want it to stay open. A lot of people are disappointed.”

The Silver Ring Cafe has occupied a space on Tennessee Avenue across from Munn Park since 1986.

The two-story building at the intersection of Tennessee and Main Street has three ground-floor businesses and is owned by Katherine Lake, who also owns My Office & More, a co-working, office and meeting space that occupies the top floor.

“Their lease expires at the end of August — August 31st — and, yes, it is not being renewed. There is another entity that is going to be moving into that space,” Lake said Thursday. “I did last week touch bases with (Altman) to remind him the lease expires and to let him know it would not be renewed.”

Lake said it was not an easy decision. 

Silver Ring is “a long-standing piece of the community. I know a lot of people will be disappointed. At the same time, I’m excited with all the changes happening in downtown Lakeland,” she said.

The building’s other two street-level tenants, Divicious Deli & Coffee Shop and Studio on Main, remain on leases for the foreseeable future, Lake said, noting the hair salon, previously Evolution, has been renovated and is under new ownership.

“It’s time to do something different” with that space facing Munn Park, she said, offering “no details to give at this time” about the prospective new tenant other than it is “a new company that will bring great value to downtown.”

Lake said she expects to reveal the new tenant in “three or four months” and that it will fit in with “the bigger picture with the changes that are coming that will be good for downtown.”

Silver Ring has two full-time employees “who have been with me for a long time” and two part-timers, Altman said.

“I’m very concerned about my employees,” he said. “I’m really worried about them more than myself — and my customers. Some people are very upset we are being run out.”

Altman said he was “pretty much” surprised his lease wasn’t being renewed. “I’ve been leasing here from four different owners since I’ve been (in Lakeland). I wasn’t expecting it, that’s for sure.”

But business is business, he said. “We’ve had some people say we’re going to protest. We don’t want anything like that. (Lake) is making a business decision and I get that,” he said.

Silver Ring’s short menu incorporates recipes from the original cafe in Ybor City, including cold and pressed Cubans with smoked ham, mojo pork, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, and chicken and yellow rice with black beans dishes, soups and breads made on-site daily.

“It would be 36 years in October” on Tennessee Avenue, Altman said. “We were here when nobody went to Munn Park.”

“It’s always a challenge with leases and long-term commitments,” Lake said, adding she’s a fan of Silver Ring and enjoyed having the restaurant below her office.

“We’re going to miss them,” she said. “Their chicken and yellow rice — you can’t find anything like it in Lakeland.”