Columbia Restaurant will reopen at new St. Petersburg pier
ST. PETERSBURG - The Columbia Restaurant announced plans today to build two new restaurants at the city’s new proposed waterfront pier. City officials trumpeted the news that The Pier’s anchor tenant is investing in The Lens, the controversial project chosen to replace the Inverted Pyramid Pier. St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster joined Columbia President Richard Gonzmart at a press conference to announce plans for the new restaurants. “We are proud of our history in St. Petersburg and are excited about the future of the City and the new Lens Pier project,” Gonzmart said in a press release. “The proposed Columbia will be integrated in The Pier’s design. The restaurant will boast the flavors that have made the Columbia a landmark in Florida for over 108 years while bringing the fresh look of modern Barcelona in the décor.” The Columbia becomes the first tenant announced for The Lens.The 7,500-square-foot restaurant will cost $3 million and seat about 220 people inside and 100 people outside on a seaside terrace, according to a release from the city. The restaurant will include a rooftop tapas bar with views of the waterfront, the new pier and the city skyline. The new restaurant would not actually be on the new pier, as it is now, but on a landside retail center called The Hub. The Columbia also plans to build a casual bar and grill on the pier’s eastern promontory, under the pier’s new canopy, according to the city. Both restaurants are scheduled to open in late summer of 2015, according to the city. Gonzmart’s family-owned company has operated two restaurants The Columbia Restaurant and Cha Cha Coconuts – since 1988. Both will remain open through May, according to the release. The new restaurant will employ 135 people, and company officials hope to bring back some of the workers who will be displaced by the two restaurants’ closings. The Columbia will help other employees land other jobs and pay severance to others. The city will provide $500,000 to the Columbia Restaurant Group for construction, with The Columbia paying the rest of the construction costs. The city’s investment is part of the $50-million budget for the new pier, according to the city’s release. The Columbia would sign a 10-year lease and pay monthly rent at the pier. Today’s event wasn’t celebrated by everyone, as members of the Stop the Lens campaign showed up to voice their opposition to the new pier. Critics of the project are working to collect enough signatures to stop it and plan to hold a rally at The Pier on Saturday. Stay with TBO.com for updates.