Garden Restaurant in downtown St. Pete won't close after all

ST. PETERSBURG — Buster Cooper's horn is safe. Ditto the Wednesday night spoken-word events. The Garden, co-owned by Emmanuel Roux and Franck Bouvard since 1993, will not to be shuttered this weekend.

"It's an adoption of sorts," Roux said late Wednesday afternoon. "We're passing the baby on to new parents."

The "baby," a Mediterranean bistro housed in a building at 217 Central Ave. that dates to 1890, is one of St. Petersburg's beloved institutions. But despite the fact that, as Roux says, "there's a lot of history attached to this place," he and Bouvard couldn't find a buyer to take over the lease and concept until they were contacted by Bill Edwards and brothers Tommy and Vagelis Varlas last Friday.

Edwards is also partner with Jannus Landing's new minority owner, Jeff Knight; the Varlas brothers have been in the restaurant business for many years, most recently in St. Pete Beach. Tony Amico is the majority owner of Jannus and its surrounding properties.

The keys to the Garden will change hands on Dec. 15, and according to Roux, "The only people getting fired are Franck and me. The menu, the staff and the concept will remain unchanged."

Still, Tommy Varlas envisions some changes in the Garden's future.

"Effective immediately, we're putting money into it, giving it a facelift with new lighting and updated bathrooms," he said.

Down the pike he hopes to add cigar nights and other events. But local jazz fans can count on Cooper's trombone being part of the big picture.

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, is at blogs.tampabay.com/dining.

Garden Restaurant in downtown St. Pete won't close after all 12/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 10, 2009 11:34am]

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