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Petition circulates asking St. Pete to choose local, not chain restaurant for Pier space

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A group called LocalShops1 on Change.org started a petition calling on the city to consider locally owned restaurants for the Pier restaurant planned for the Pier head at Pier Park.

Under the Request for Proposal for the 7,600-square-foot space, the city listed its preferred proposal as one that would offer “a nationally or regionally recognized chain restaurant or uniquely branded destination restaurant.”

While downtown St. Pete does have some chain restaurants available for the choosing, it boasts an impressively wide variety of unique, independent eateries, shops and other businesses.

From craft beer to innovative gastro-pubs and cultural eats, St. Pete is bustling with a growing local theme. To turn what will likely be one of the city’s most sought-after spots into a restaurant you might see anywhere would be counterintuitive to St. Pete’s local vibe.

That’s the same argument made in the petition.

“The Pier should proudly showcase our local flavors and our local vibe, be a reflection of all that’s great about St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay region,” the petition reads.

As of Monday morning, 319 people had electronically signed the petition.

“I want my brother and sister to have culture growing up, not chain stores,” wrote Jordanne Fuller of Toronto.

Other supporters wrote that local business and a unique atmosphere are the reasons tourists – and locals – visit downtown St. Pete.

“Visitors love DT St. Pete due to its vibe and uniqueness,” wrote Mardi Bessolo from Tampa. “One of our well-known local restaurants should be at the Pier, not a national chain.”

Even Moscatos Bella Cucina co-owner Yolanda Tristancho signed on supporting a local restaurant at the Pier in favor of a chain. Moscato’s is located on Central Avenue in downtown St. Pete and has thrived. The restaurant opened in 2010 in a small space offering only takeout. They expanded the next year to offer sit-down dining and then again after that when business continued to boom.

It’s a prime example of how local eating can and does work in downtown St. Pete.

But there could be some concern over opening a local restaurant at the Pier head. In the past restaurants have struggled to stay afloat at the Pier because it’s far from parking. Opening a restaurant there may be perceived as too big a risk for businesses just starting out.

Despite that, the petition author wrote Sunday that city staff had informed the group that Mayor Rick Kriseman “will be looking at our concerns.”

A request for verification from the mayor was not immediately answered.

A pre-bid meeting with interested parties will be held September 18. Bids are due mid-day on November 5.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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