CLEARWATER — Shephard's Beach Resort, the well-known waterfront spot with a reputation for being party central, is about to nearly double its number of hotel rooms.
Work has just begun on an 11-month construction job that will add 93 rooms and a second parking garage to the resort at the south end of Clearwater Beach.
On Monday, crews will start tearing down the older, two-story hotel building that makes up the eastern half of the nearly three-acre resort. The existing pool will also be removed.
All of that will be replaced by an eight-story hotel building with a 7,000-square-foot, tropical-themed pool surrounded by VIP cabanas for rent.
"We're basically tripling the size of the pool area," said Gerri Shephard, director of operations for the family-owned resort.
Shephard's will stay open during the construction, with its remaining 47 hotel rooms, restaurant, tiki bar, nightclub, private beach and outdoor concert stage. Guests will be allowed to use the pool at the Holiday Inn next door.
The original plan for the expansion was to build a 134-foot-tall tower with a swimming pool on top, but that has changed. "We've changed the scheme a few times," Shephard said.
Shephard's, 601-619 S Gulfview Blvd., first opened in 1976 as the Lagoon and has steadily expanded into a full-fledged resort with an attached entertainment complex. It's a popular weekend party spot known for reggae bands and bikini contests.
Its partying ways have occasionally been a source of controversy.
In 2009, when Shephard's was asking for the city's approval to get bigger, the City Council talked of putting limits on loud, late-night music at the resort. Council member George Cretekos, who was not yet mayor at the time, said he routinely heard complaints about the resort's music from his neighbors on Sand Key, which is across Clearwater Pass from Shephard's.
After some debate, council members didn't impose any new limits on Shephard's. They noted that Clearwater already had a citywide noise ordinance.
Asked about Shephard's this week, Mayor Cretekos smiled wide and said, "Shephard's is a good community partner. As they expand, I'm confident they'll work with us."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.