ST. PETERSBURG — Doors are closing at Philippe Theodore and Jason Rappaport's first World of Beer outlet in the next 10 days.
Without naming the new owner, Theodore says the space at 5226 Fourth St. N will be redesigned and patio seating added in the next 30 days and become a gastropub focused on locally sourced foods.
"I don't mean to be elusive, but the operator we're bringing in hasn't finalized a name. I can tell you it's going to be a bar/lounge-restaurant concept, with a regularly changing pub fare menu with local product. The operator's father owns an organic market and he's going to be bringing in products through the market," he said.
So while we're waiting for the mystery operator to be unveiled, it's logical to ask, in a craft-beer-crazy city in a craft-beer-crazy era, does this signal a saturation for craft beer-centric bars?
After this initial store opened in November 2009, the duo went on to another in New Tampa, then Carrollwood, then South Tampa, and then downtown St. Petersburg. They are opening a location in Brandon in the next three months, and with rights to Denver and Houston, they have plans to open two more in each of those markets in the next eight months.
But in St. Petersburg, two was too many.
"We've seen tremendous growth downtown and we wanted to be a part of that. We knew if we didn't get a foothold on the downtown market we'd face a lot of competition. We knew it would probably cannibalize the smaller store up on Fourth and we'd have to rebrand it," says Theodore.
With competition from places like the Ale and the Witch, Crum's, Taps & Tequila, even the soon-to-be-rebranded Independent, it's clearly difficult to carve out market share among St. Petersburg's beer cognoscenti. World of Beer's successful formula has been 500 beers from 40 countries, with no food. Several WOB locations partner with nearby restaurants for takeout/delivery.
"To get people to manage that much product and be educated about that product, it's difficult to incorporate food as well," Theodore explains.
Time will tell if there's room on Fourth Street N for another beer-centric restaurant, but Theodore has high hopes for the gastropub.
"I have an attachment to that store. It's the first one we did; my first project in the hospitality business. It's a great market — that space will thrive as a new concept."
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293.