MADEIRA BEACH — A new $2 million fine dining restaurant will open here in December to become one of the few gulffront restaurants in Pinellas County.
"We are trying to bring to you a beautiful crown jewel on the Gulf of Mexico," said local restaurateur Steve Westphal, who will run the new Gulf Grill restaurant.
Westphal also owns and runs the Pub in Indian Shores; Parkshore Grill, 400 Beach Seafood & Tap House and the Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge in St. Petersburg; and provides catering to St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater and Cafe Gala inside the Dalí Museum.
"I was proud and honored for the opportunity to put a restaurant on the sand, which is long overdue," Westphal said.
The Gulf Grill will be directly on the beach at 14080 Gulf Blvd., between the city's Kitty Stuart Park and the Arena De Madeira condominium.
In approving the special development agreement for the restaurant, the City Commission granted a 15-space parking variance and will allow the restaurant to provide some of its 39 spaces across the street. Normally, the city would have required 54 spaces onsite.
In exchange, the developers are dedicating a 5-foot easement to the city to allow additional city-metered spaces in adjacent Kitty Stuart Park, bringing the mini-park's total parking to 20 spaces.
The developer, Gulfwaters Land Development, also agreed to pay the cost of city-installed restroom facilities within the park, up to a $20,000 maximum.
The 6,923-square-foot elevated restaurant is expected to seat 162 people within the Bahama Breeze-style building, and another 54 people at a first floor Tiki Bar and on an upper-level deck.
Developer David Bekhor said Monday that construction is expected to begin within a few weeks with the goal of opening by December.
His company, Anchorage Bay, bought the property in 2003 for $1.5 million with the intention of building a condominium, but put that project off as the economy and real estate market collapsed. The 100- by 117-foot lot is now valued by the Pinellas County property appraiser at just under $1 million.
"Two years ago, we decided to try to build a restaurant," Bekhor said. "It is a great project and will be the only restaurant on the beach in the city."
The restaurant, which will serve lunch and dinner, will offer upscale seafood described as "the freshest and most sustainable fish and shellfish our Gulf of Mexico has to offer."
The restaurant also supports the farm-to-table movement, and will frequently feature locally grown produce.
The menu will feature other cuisines as well, according to Bekhor. The restaurant will be licensed for beer, wine and liquor.
In approving the development agreement and parking variance, the commission overruled its planning commission, which had recommended the agreement only if the full 54 parking spaces were required.
A number of residents also objected, including an owner of a unit in the Arena Madeira who feared looking down on the restaurant roof and of possible noise from the outside bar on the restaurant deck.
"Madeira Beach deserves a good restaurant," countered resident Housh Ghovaee.
The commission agreed and unanimously approved the project.