ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg native Jon La Budde is getting back into the restaurant business. Just after Labor Day he will open Reno at 27 Fourth St. N, the former home of Primi Urban Cafe.
"I've been in hospitality for most of my life as an owner/operator and investor, mostly with nightclubs. I had Johnny Reno's at the Pier and we had good success the first year, but then when the mayor announced he was closing it that put a nail in the coffin," he said.
Before the Pier project, La Budde had live music clubs the Big Catch and Voodoo Lounge, as well as Reno Beach Surf Shop and O.C. Beach.
His description of Reno is vague but tantalizing: "The new concept is going to be difficult to explain, and I don't want to pigeonhole myself. I'm somewhat of a capitalist pig and I want to keep the masses happy. I didn't want to do gourmet hamburgers, didn't want to be a taco place or a sushi place or a Thai place."
After the long list of what it isn't, La Budde makes it clear that this new project, for which he has gutted the kitchen and reworked the bar and dining room, is rooted in nostalgia.
"My father used to live in Washington, D.C. He would take me to places in the bottom of brownstones: long rectangles with long wooden and brass bars. It was the Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra time," he said. "I guess I was impressionable at that age and thought, this place is so cool, and has really good food."
Called just Reno, with the tagline "Downtown Joint," the project has a level of sophistication, La Budde says, but people will feel comfortable in their flip-flops. "We intend to be a restaurant first and a bar second."
Joined in the project by his brother, James La Budde, and his sister, Lisa La Budde Edwards, Le Budde has not finalized his kitchen staff but has interviewed a number of local chefs as well as one from New Orleans.
The former home of Primi Urban Cafe has a history that resonates for La Budde.
"The space used to be a Howard Johnson's. I went there with my great-grandfather in the 1960s."
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.