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As Hooters claims Pepin site, executive will try to allay residents' concerns

ST. PETERSBURG — Traffic, noise and parking. Those are issues Hooters' top executive should expect to come up when he meets with residents in the Northeast Park neighborhood on Monday.

Hooters will open a new restaurant in the neighborhood this fall and take the spot once occupied by Pepin, an establishment known for its encased-in-salt, baked pompano filleted tableside.

Some neighbors are uneasy with the change in vibe that will arrive with Hooters, a chain restaurant known for chicken wings served up by Hooters "girls.''

"I hear it's going to be open late nightly,'' said Betty Braverman.

"They need security, and they need to keep the place quiet so people can live. And I know they don't have enough parking. They are going to be up and down the street. There will be cars parked on top of each other.''

Cyndi Montgomery and her husband, Dan, own L'Moe's restaurant at 4201 Fourth St. N. Hooters, at 4125 Fourth St. N, will be a close neighbor.

"Our concern is not so much competing with them, as it is parking,'' Cyndi Montgomery said.

"Parking is going to be an issue, because the last several weeks of Pepin, before they closed, everybody just bombarded the place. We actually had to have one of our bus people sit outside for 2 1/2 weeks to prevent people from parking here. … Where are all of those employees going to park? I have enough parking space for our customers, but I don't have enough space for their customers.''

Neil Kiefer, chief executive officer for the Clearwater-based Hooters Management Corp., wants to reassure his new neighbors.

"Our building will be half the size of Pepin's,'' he said, adding that the new Hooters will be 5,000 to 5,500 square feet to Pepin's 10,000.

"It's a less intensive use just by the sheer size of the old facility,'' he said.

Cheryl Greenwood, a past president of the Northeast Park Neighborhood Association, and Karan Padgett, treasurer, hope Kiefer will address concerns they've been hearing.

Padgett said Hooters will bring a different atmosphere to the community. "Pepin's was such a wonderful laid back restaurant,'' she said.

Those closest to the planned Hooters are particularly worried, Crime Watch coordinator Shirley Ralston said.

"With the skimpy outfits and stuff like that, I know the neighbors up there don't like it and with all the racket and some of (the customers) getting inebriated,'' she said.

The safety of neighborhood children is a concern, Braverman said. She said there's talk of raising speed bumps to stop speeders, "so you either lose your transmission, or you slow down, but I don't know what we can do about the traffic.''

Kiefer said Hooters is just another restaurant replacing another.

"It's the same use that has been on that property for 40 years, and it's a smaller building, which will house less people. It's not a rowdy crowd,'' he said.

"We're in Tyrone Mall.''

The company is relocating the Hooters at 10400 Roosevelt Blvd. to the Fourth Street site. The restaurant will feature a new exterior design but keep its traditional Hooters beach interior and employ about 100 to 125 full- and part-time workers. It will be open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this article. Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at wmoore@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2283.

. Fast facts

If you go

Northeast Park Neighborhood Association meeting, 7 p.m. Monday at Masonic Home of Florida, 3201 First St. NE, St. Petersburg. Call (727) 527-7917 or go to northeastparkfla.com.

As Hooters claims Pepin site, executive will try to allay residents' concerns 04/09/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 9, 2011 4:30am]
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