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- 2014 - July - 16th -

Founder says going public was key for Latitude 360's growth

By Mark Basch, Contributing Writer

Walking into the Latitude 360 restaurant and entertainment venue on Jacksonville’s Southside, the size and scope of the operation isn’t immediately clear.

You’ll see a restaurant with a lot of televisions and a game room that could pass for a typical large sports bar.

However, as you venture farther into the 50,000-square-foot facility on Philips Highway, across from The Avenues mall, you’ll find out just how big it is, with amenities including a bowling alley, a comedy club and a movie theater.

Likewise, if you take a quick look at the corporation that owns the facility, Latitude 360 Inc., it doesn’t look like a sizable company. But founder and CEO Brent Brown has big plans.

“I think we’ll be a big American brand one day,” Brown said in an interview at the company’s Jacksonville venue.

Latitude 360 became a publicly traded company six weeks ago by merging with an existing public company, a move that paves the way for growth.

“Going public was a very important step for us,” Brown said.

Besides the company’s Jacksonville venue, which opened in 2011 under the name Latitude 30, Latitude 360 operates similar facilities in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis and is planning a fourth in Albany, N.Y.

The company is looking at several other major cities for expansion and is targeting a total of 12 venues by the end of 2016, Brown said.

“I get calls every week now from mall owners and developers,” he said.

Latitude 360 is a concept that offers a number of entertainment options in one place to attract customers.

“I think in today’s world, it’s all about the experience,” Brown said.

However, he said the restaurant service is a key part of the entire concept. Even the movie theater allows customers to order food and beverages while they watch.

“We are a restaurant concept. We are not an entertainment concern,” he said.

Facilities like the game room and the bowling alley will attract families with kids, but offering something for adults is a key.

“We bring in the adults, the ones who are spending money,” Brown said.

The Latitude 360 venues opening in other cities are not necessarily duplicates of the Jacksonville restaurant.

“It’s not going to be exact because we go into existing spaces,” as opposed to constructing a building from scratch, Brown said.

He said not all buildings can accommodate a movie theater, for example, because the ceilings aren’t tall enough for a screen.

Latitude 360 also has features in other cities that aren’t available in Jacksonville, such as a cigar bar at its Pittsburgh venue.

One facility that is a must for every Latitude 360 location is its comedy club theater, which the company also makes available to businesses for large corporate events.

“That’s a very key concept for us,” Brown said.

Brown sees Latitude 360 as a unique concept and said it would be difficult for a competitor to duplicate. He said developers are willing to work with Latitude 360 because, although it hasn’t been in business for long, it does have a track record of successfully operations.

“We came out of the gate an unknown. We’re doing some very nice volume,” Brown said.

Although it is now public, Latitude 360 hasn’t yet filed any financial data on its business with the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, it will be filing its first quarterly report next month.

Latitude 360 had been trying to go public for at least two years. It first attempted a merger with a public shell company called Blink Couture, which had no other operating business, but that deal fell through.

Brown said new SEC regulations regarding mergers with shell companies made that deal impractical. However, this year it found a merger partner in a small public company in Texas called Kingdom Koncrete Inc., which has a business that provides pre-mixed concrete into mobile mixer trailers that are delivered to customers’ job sites.

The company merged with Kingdom Koncrete and then changed the name of the public company to Latitude 360, but it is still retaining the concrete business. Brown said Kingdom Koncrete has value to the Latitude 360 business because of its engineers, who are assisting in its venue development plans.

By going public, Latitude 360 has more access to funding sources, including plans for a secondary stock offering. That will allow the company to pay off its remaining debts.

The debts include two tax liens totaling about $385,000 filed last month by the Florida Department of Revenue for unpaid sales and use tax. Brown said the unpaid taxes came up during a recent audit and will be paid off by the company.

Latitude 360’s expansion could include a second Jacksonville venue Downtown.

The company in 2012 signed a letter of intent that gave it a 90-day window to purchase the former Haydon Burns Library. The company decided not to pursue that location and let the letter of intent expire, but Brown remains optimistic about Downtown’s potential.

He said the company has had discussions about other locations for a venue there.

“We haven’t ruled Downtown out,” he said.

The Southside location opened under the Latitude 30 name to reflect Jacksonville’s geographic location, but the company is rebranding all of its venues under the Latitude 360 name.

The rebranding is basically complete, but the Jacksonville venue still has “Latitude 30” signs along Philips Highway. Those signs will be changed, but Brown said the company deliberately moved slowly in changing the signs because the business was doing well under the Latitude 30 brand.

“We’re very happy. Jacksonville has been fabulous to us,” he said.

mbasch@baileypub.com

(904) 356-2466

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