ST. PETERSBURG — Even with the flurry of new restaurants downtown, diners have been salivating for, and lamenting the lack of, a true steak house. Well, the wait won't be much longer.
A steak house will open in the former YWCA building at 655 Second Ave. S by summer. The Tampa group that owns six Cevíche restaurants around the state is planning a "casual chic" steak house that will be a departure from its successful Spanish tapas concept.
"We've been exploring this concept and we are excited about it," said Joe Orsino, chief executive of the Cevíche ownership group. "We think it not only perfectly suits the specific location and that beautiful building but also it will fill a cuisine void in downtown St. Pete."
The restaurant, which doesn't have a name yet, will be casual and upscale, he said. The menu and prices haven't been determined. It will occupy 9,500 square feet in the 1924 building that has ornately carved white columns and a grand staircase.
Tampa developer Trish Moore is investing close to $1 million renovating the building that was originally built as the Endicott Funeral Home.
The Brass Tap, a craft beer pub with three other Tampa Bay locations, is also going into the building and will share a grand opening with the steak house. It will offer up to 70 craft beers on tap, 300 bottled varieties and live music at least three nights a week.
"I think downtown is expanding outward. Plus we have plenty of parking that nobody else has," said Steve Slowey, a Brass Tap founder. The 2,600-square-foot bar won't serve food, but patrons can have it brought in from the steak house and a few other restaurants. It will have 15 to 20 TVs and a large patio that will be climate controlled throughout the year.
The owners of Beef 'O' Brady's recently partnered with the Brass Tap to sell franchises across the country. Fifteen will open this year around Florida as well as in Chicago, Ohio and Texas.
"Craft beer keeps getting more popular," said Jeff Martin, another Brass Tap partner. "Once you start drinking some of these better beers, you won't drink Bud Light or Coors Light."
Martin thinks there is enough enthusiasm for craft beer — the fruit of a small, independent brewery — that the Brass Tap won't hurt the nearby World of Beer. Then there's Green Bench Brewing Co., which plans to open nearby in a few months at 1134 First Ave. N.
"In that area downtown people like to bop around from one bar to another bar. The more there is to do downtown the more people come downtown, and the busier everybody will get," he said.
Orsino certainly knows about building a crowd. When he opened Cevíche downtown in 2005, Beach Drive wasn't the vibrant strip it is now.
"We were the first on the scene," he said of the restaurant at 10 Beach Drive NE. "In 2005 we saw Beach Drive and St. Petersburg in general as an exciting, developing area of Tampa Bay."
Now he is a pioneer again in the less traveled area of Second Avenue S across from the Herman Home furniture store.
"Downtown is expanding in this direction," Orsino said. "We think our timing is perfect for entry in that area."
Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.