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Thursday, Jun 21, 2018
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People turn out to enjoy St. Pete’s doomed pier

ST. PETERSBURG - A simmering heat over Tampa Bay didn’t discourage scores of people from gathering at The Pier on Saturday for one of the last parties at the 40-year-old landmark.
Patrons packed outdoor tables from Jonny Reno’s on the inverted pyramid’s bottom floor to Cha-Cha Coconuts on the rooftop, drinking beer, taking in views of white sailboats on blue waters and reminiscing.
Artists lined the outside of the building near families casting fishing lines off adjoining docks.
There were old traditions, such as a water ski show that has been an entertainment event here since the days of the previous Million Dollar Pier.
Some regulars said once the city closes the existing pier on May 31, this convivial atmosphere -- the eating, drinking and funky live bands -- won’t ever come back.
Others, like Bonnie Stein, who was out celebrating the last days of The Pier with a troupe of dancers wearing multicolored fish hats, stockings and leis, said people felt the same way when the Million Dollar Pier closed.
“I’m going to say that in 1973, when they were building this pier, everybody was against it at that time because they didn’t want the previous pier to be closed,” she said.
The “Raise a Toast to the Pier Party” wasn’t aimed at either side of the debate stewing over the new pier design called The Lens.
Rather, it was meant to give The Pier’s businesses one last boost before closing and local residents an opportunity to remember the good times they’ve had here, said Ester Venouziou, who organized the event through her local business group LocalShops1.
“People are coming together to celebrate what’s here now,” she said.
The 500 tickets for a VIP toast at sunset sold out more than a week before the event and The Pier’s parking lots remained full all day.
More events, including a Memorial Day celebration, are planned ahead of The Pier closing.

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