CLEARWATER —Two international chains are headed to the heart of Clearwater Beach next spring.
A local developer plans to put up a new three-story building to house a Hooters restaurant and Starbucks coffee shop. An existing retail building at 385 Mandalay Ave., just north of the beach roundabout, will be torn down to make way for the project.
The two businesses will join the locally owned restaurants and small shops in the Mandalay business district near Pier 60.
"The beach is full of wonderful dining choices, and it just adds another opportunity for the thousands of visitors that come to our beach," said Darlene Kole, president of the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce.
Joseph Kokolakis, who owns 385 Mandalay Ave., will develop the project. His plans call for a three-story building with a balcony and rooftop bar. The first floor would be occupied by a Starbucks and a retail store which has yet to be identified. The Hooters restaurant would occupy the second floor, with the third floor serving as the restaurant's open-air bar.
The project site plan is under review by the city and will be considered by the Clearwater Community Development Board in August, said City Planning And Development Director Michael Delk.
Many visitors to Clearwater Beach are surprised to find out there are so few chain restaurants there, Kole said.
She expects that bringing recognizable brands to the beach will have a positive effect on the area.
"The more people that come out here to dine, they park, they walk, they shop, they enjoy all the other amenities out here," Kole said.
Kokolakis said both businesses approached him to build locations on Clearwater Beach. With so many hotels nearby, Starbucks should attract plenty of business from tourists, he said.
"When I travel somewhere, I wake up in the morning and walk to the nearest Starbucks," he said.
While both businesses are chains, Hooters has roots in Clearwater. The original Hooters restaurant is located on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard, and Kokolakis said several of Hooters' owners live on Clearwater Beach.
"I think they're looking at this as a location almost in their home," he said.
Kokolakis said Hooters suits the atmosphere of Clearwater Beach. The restaurant, which specializes in chicken wings, sells bar cuisine as well as beer and wine. One of the restaurant's iconic features is its wait staff: young women in revealing white tank tops and orange shorts. Kokolakis said Hooters can be considered a family restaurant; he has taken his three children there.
But longtime Clearwater Beach resident and activist Anne Garris disagrees. She said she has never been to Hooters but knows of its reputation, and that the restaurant does not fit with the beach's "wholesome atmosphere."
"I don't see Hooters as family friendly," Garris said. "I don't think it caters to our highest instincts."
Although Garris said she is not opposed to Starbucks, the arrival of chain restaurants has "chipped away" at Clearwater Beach's unique qualities, she said.
"When we get the chain places here, we become just like everyone else," Garris said. "People will say, 'Why come here? You've got it everywhere else.' "
Katie Park can be reached at (727) 445-4154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.