ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown restaurant scene is heating up, with a big handful of newcomers, concept changes and personnel adjustments.
BellaBrava owners Dyce Craig and Robert Sanderson have had a parting of the ways with Mike Harting, who also owns 3 Daughters Brewing in St. Petersburg. Last week it was announced that BellaBrava owners will launch a yet-to-be-named tavern at 224 Beach Drive NE — now Bruce Watters Jewelers — this year.
Harting, who was with the Italian eatery for the past five years, will remain a silent shareholder but is no longer involved in day-to-day operations.
"I think it was God's way of saying I have too many irons in the fire," Harting said.
"In the end I have more time to invest, and I can grow 3 Daughters more quickly than I thought. BellaBrava has a strong management team, so I don't see them skipping a beat," Harting continued. "Dyce and Robert have a great vision for what their next concept will look like. I think it's going to be a great addition to Beach Drive, and I can't wait to see it."
The brewery's beer can now be found at restaurants and bars in nine counties, and 3 Daughters will enter the Naples/Fort Myers market midsummer. Harting plans to begin canning beer by the end of summer.
In other beer news, St. Petersburg Brewing, which has been a long time coming at 544 First Ave. N, is set to open. Tom and Michele Williams anticipate opening by mid April but have yet to have final inspections. Head brewer and part owner Jon McCracken will debut five of their beers at launch, and the brewery will work closely with next door's Papa Angelo's Pizza, because, as Tom says, "craft beer with craft pizza is a knockout punch."
Primi Ristorante Italiano has closed quietly at 27 Fourth St. N after a number of years and a couple of ownership changes at this location.
And after a rocky road with health inspections, India Grill closed at 409 Central Ave., to be reopened soon as Bombay Grill.
The historic Garden Restaurant has been reinvented by Jeff Knight's Knight Global Entertainment as Calypso Rum Bar & Island Grill. Purported to be the oldest restaurant in St. Petersburg, dating to 1890, the space at 217 Central Ave. has maintained its indoor seating, patio courtyard and stage for live music. Knight Global Entertainment also owns Jannus Live, St. Pete Kitchen, Pelican Pub, Club Detroit and MacDinton's.
Laura Reiley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.