Columbia Restaurant announces plan to build new restaurant at redesigned Pier

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The Columbia Restaurant Group submitted a proposal to the city of Saint Petersburg today to become the first tenants at the new Saint Petersburg Pier by building and operating a full-service restaurant on the Pier’s landside Hub and a casual grille on the structure’s easternmost promontory. 

Columbia Group President and fourth generation family member Richard Gonzmart announced today at a press conference that the Columbia Restaurant, which has been a Pier tenant for 25 years, wished to play a part in the future of the new Pier by constructing a new full-service restaurant on the landside hub on the south side of The Pier Approach at the water’s edge, as well as open an outdoor eatery beneath The Pier’s new canopy at the end promontory of the new Pier. 

Restaurant plans call for a $3 million, 7,500 sq. ft.  restaurant with indoor dining for 220 diners, and seating for 100 additional diners on the seaview terrace. The restaurant will include a rooftop tapas bar with sweeping views of the waterfront, the new dramatic Pier and the city skyline. 

While plans are still under development, Mr. Gonzmart also announced plans to develop a casual bar and grill on the promontory, the eastern-most terminus of The Pier, beneath the shaded canopy of the new structure. 

Under terms of the proposed agreement, the city will provide $500,000 to the Columbia Restaurant Group toward the construction, which is part of the city’s original $50 million Pier budget, with the Columbia assuming the remainder of the construction costs. The Columbia would also commit to a 10-year lease, and pay monthly rent. In the event that the Columbia ceased operation at The Pier, the city would retain ownership of the building. The new St. Pete Pier’s internationally renowned architect, Michael Maltzan Architecture, will design the new spaces in keeping with the Pier’s unique design. 

“The Columbia has been a proven tenant at The Pier for 25 years,” said Mayor Bill Foster. “We are very pleased that Mr. Gonzmart and the Columbia Restaurant Group share our vision for the new St. Pete Pier, see its potential and wish to remain a part of St. Petersburg’s bright future.” 

“We are proud of our history in St. Petersburg, and are excited about our future in the city and the new St. Pete Pier,” said Richard Gonzmart. “The proposed Columbia will be integrated into the new Pier’s design. The restaurant will boast the flavors that have made the Columbia a landmark in Florida for more than 108 years while bringing the fresh look of modern Barcelona in the decor.” 

“The design team and I are thrilled by this exciting news,” said Michael Maltzan.  “We look forward to working with Richard Gonzmart and the Columbia team on creating a new and iconic waterfront dining destination.” 

The proposed new restaurants would open in conjunction with the new Pier in late summer, 2015. In the meantime, the current Columbia at the Pier is paying homage to St. Petersburg’s Piers of the past by themed souvenir menus featuring photos and stories of the historic Piers. A different Pier is featured each month through the end of May, when the Columbia will close and construction begins on the new St. Pete Pier.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.