Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Published May 23 2018
Updated May 24 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being one of two anchor restaurant tenants in the 26-acre, $76 million Pier District.

Several months ago, Prather learned the bid process was still open and put together a presentation. He beat out three other groups vying for a spot in the reimagined pier.

The brainstorming started with a wish list: a tiki bar, a retro-cocktail trend that has swept the nation in the past year or two. Let’s call it tiki, the next generation, with drinks that reflect the fun and warmth of the tropics but in more sophisticated presentations. Prather envisioned a restaurant on the first floor called Teak (teak is the iconic wood of boat hulls, the decking in Chris-Craft boats), with a rooftop tiki bar called Pier Teaki, and to keep the thematic thread going, a third casual walkup spot called the Driftwood Cafe that will sell coffee, ice cream and picnic fixing for enjoying on the pier’s "tilted lawn."

The other anchor tenant was named in January: Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille, a small restaurant group masterminded by Florida waterman-turned-novelist Randy Wayne White. That lease agreement was negotiated mid-April. Prather has not yet met White, nor does he know if the contract has been awarded for the smaller food concept in the pier’s pavilion.

Prather knocked St. Petersburg’s socks off with his boutique hotel, restaurant and rooftop Canopy Bar in 2013. But, he explained, rooftop bars are tricky because most roofs are engineered to hold the weight of the roof but not thousands of pounds of people and equipment. In general, it’s prohibitively expensive to retrofit a roof. Thus, the Canopy Bar remains one of St. Petersburg’s only open-air, water-view bars. When asked if his three-part pier concept will cannibalize from his flagship property on St. Petersburg’s Beach Drive, he was bullish.

"Beach Drive will only get busier as the pier opens," he said. "And one concept is out on the water with spectacular views looking back at the city-scape, while the other is looking out at the water."

For any rooftop locale, success is frequently determined by the weather.

As Prather contemplates a rainy Memorial Day weekend for his Birchwood property, he says, "You watch the weather and cross your fingers."

He hopes to have Teak, Pier Teaki and Driftwood Café debut with the rest of the pier in time for Labor Day 2019.

Contact Laura Reiley at
[email protected] or
(727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.

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