YBOR CITY, Fla. (WFLA) — For over 100 years, the JC Newman Cigar Co. has hand rolled cigars. The company has had a presence in Tampa since the early 1950s. Across the street from their current factory off Columbus Drive sits the Sanchez y Haya building, which once served as a hotel and bar used by factory employees over the past century. The Newmans hope to restore the building to its former glory.
“As we started getting into the project we realized the building may have been abandoned by humans, but a couple thousand bats had taken up residence,” said Drew Newman, a fourth-generation owner.
The cigar company bought the building several years ago. When they began the process of renovation, they discovered thousands of native bats had taken up residence on the building’s second floor.
“We first had to move the bats out so they wouldn’t be disturbed and wouldn’t be harmed by the construction,” he added.
They’ve now built two bat houses across the street, next to what will soon be a park for the neighborhood to use. They’re hoping the bats will become an attraction.
“[To] have our bat colony grow and then become an attraction too to help educate the public that bats aren’t bad things,” Newman said.
The Sanchez y Hoya building was originally constructed in 1910. The Newman’s plan to install a bed & breakfast, cigar lounge and bar. They hope the revitalization will help the entire Ybor City Historic District, too.
“Hopefully it will make it nicer for visitors, our employees and residents, but hopefully it will spur further development and investment to preserve this part of Ybor City, too,” he said.