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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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St. Pete moving forward with Columbia deal at new pier

ST. PETERSBURG - The Columbia Restaurant will not face competition to its plan to build a new restaurant at the entrance to the proposed new pier. The 1 p.m. deadline for other businesses to submit competing proposals passed by Tuesday with no takers. City officials will now begin negotiations with owners of the Columbia, who plan to build a new $3-million restaurant at the approach to the controversial Lens pier and a seafood themed bar at the end of the pier. City officials gave other businesses a 30-day period to submit proposals after Mayor Bill Foster and Columbia owner Richard Gonzmart announced a tentative deal at a press conference Feb. 21. The proposed 10-year deal includes discounted rent, although it gives the city a percentage of sales. Critics, including City Council Member Wengay Newton, said the announcement made it clear the city favored the Columbia deal even before they considered other bids.
Negotiations with Colombia owners are expected to take about six weeks. Final lease agreements will come before the City Council for approval by early June. The small chain, which started in Tampa’s Ybor City, has operated a restaurant at the pier since 1998. “Obviously we’ve had a special relationship with them being tenants at the pier for 25 years,” said Chris Ballestra, the city’s managing director of development coordination. “They bring something special to the City of St. Petersburg and the entire Tampa Bay area.”

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