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Three great reasons to toast to the Pier: Columbia, Jonny Reno's and Cha Cha Coconuts

It's time to say goodbye to the Pier.

St. Petersburg's most iconic landmark is closing at the end of this month, so if you haven't been in a while, there's still time to check it out before everyone's favorite inverted pyramid disappears forever.

In Las Vegas, there used to be a peculiar culture regarding the passing of former landmarks. When a once-famous casino was set for demolition, residents would line the sidewalks of Las Vegas Boulevard to watch the implosion and cheer — a sort of celebration of a good run. For the Pier, something similar is happening on Saturday.

Raise a Toast to the Pier is a celebration of the Pier's 40-year history, featuring live music, face painting, waterski shows, circus acts, local art displays and a cocktail competition between bartenders from Pier residents Jonny Reno's and Cha Cha Coconuts, as well as their neighbor at the end of the block, Fresco's Waterfront Bistro. Admission to the event, which takes place from noon to sundown, is free, but a $10 VIP ticket to the cocktail competition gets you a sample of each cocktail, a commemorative plastic Pier cocktail glass, a poster, a voting ticket and dessert.

The Raise a Toast event promises to be a great sendoff, but if you can't make it out, there's still almost two weeks to enjoy the Pier's particular brand of touristy charm before it closes on May 31. Buy a corny T-shirt at half off, have your fortune predicted by either Zoltar or Elvis, drop $2 for a hurricane simulation (you can fit at least two people in there, if you're a cheapskate) or smash a penny into a commemorative coin with images of the Pier, pelicans or dolphins.

You can also do a mini bar crawl. There are three places at the Pier to quench your thirst, all open right up until the very end: Jonny Reno's Waterfront Restaurant & Watering Hole, the Columbia Restaurant and Cha Cha Coconuts Tropical Bar and Grill. Let's start on the ground floor and work our way up.

At the far end of the ground floor is Jonny Reno's. There's an indoor dining area and bar decked out with surfboards and other beach-bar decor, but you'll certainly want to head outside at some point to enjoy a drink right on the water. The expansive outdoor patio wraps all the way around the end of the Pier, so it's a perfect spot to watch the pelicans, gulls and occasional dolphins come and go.

Tropical drinks are the name of the game here, and they're served reasonably strong. If you want to start out a bit lighter, take a look at the beer selection. There are several quality brews on draft and a pretty nice bottle selection comprised of many imports and quite a few American craft beers.

After having a drink or several at Jonny Reno's, head up to the fourth floor and get some food. The Columbia Restaurant is an old-school, casual-upscale place specializing in Cuban and Spanish dishes, and it has a cocktail and wine menu to match. Alongside a variety of Spanish wines and three signature house sangrias, you'll find several interesting twists on classic cocktails, such as a Bloody Mary made from gazpacho and a Manhattan infused with guava juice. The Columbia is also famous for its classic mojito, which can be purchased by the glass or in a full pitcher.

This is also a good chance to cool off for a minute before heading upstairs, as the Columbia's dining area is all indoors. However, large, picture windows around the perimeter offer panoramic views of the bay, so you won't be missing out on the scenery.

Finally, take the elevator up just one more flight and visit Cha Cha Coconuts. This indoor/outdoor restaurant has a definite Caribbean vibe, from the colorful decor to the reggae music that's usually playing over the sound system. The drinks here are very fruity, very tropical and perfect for kicking back and watching the sunset from the top level observation deck or the large outdoor dining area. The view's impossible to beat, and it won't be there much longer.

Most of us will miss the colorful, instantly recognizable Pier as part of the downtown landscape once it's gone, and in the very near future, that thing's coming down. The official farewell party is Saturday, but there's still time to pay one last visit after that. My advice is simple: enjoy it while it's still there. — jg@saintbeat.com

Jonny Reno's Waterfront Restaurant & Watering Hole

Bottom floor of the Pier, St. Petersburg; (727) 896-7366, jonnyreno.com

The vibe: Beach bar-style dining and drinking with a huge outdoor patio right on the waterfront.

Food: Sides, starters and salads, $4-$12; entrees, $7-$14; desserts, $6.

Booze: Beer, $5-$8; wine, $5-$12; liquor, $6-$10. Happy hour is 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, featuring $3 wells and select domestic bottles and $3.50 select domestic drafts.

Specialty: While there's no house cocktail menu, the bartenders at Jonny Reno's are well-versed in everyone's tropical favorites, such as the mai tai, rumrunner, Bahama mama and hurricane. I didn't ask if they do a zombie, but I suggest you do. If you'd prefer a beer with your sunshine, waterfront drinking, Jonny Reno's also carries an extensive beer selection, from a wide variety of big-name imports from Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico to American craft brews and even local beers on draft from Cigar City and Cold Storage.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday.

Columbia Restaurant

Fourth floor of the Pier, St. Petersburg; (727) 822-2000, columbiarestaurant.com

The vibe: A classy Spanish-Cuban restaurant with panoramic views from the indoor dining area.

Food: Soups, salads and tapas, $3.95-$12.95; entrees, $9.95-$30; desserts, $5.95-$8.95.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $5-$6; wine, $8-$9.50 by the glass and $24-$68 by the bottle; liquor, $6-$10.

Specialty: The Columbia is well-known for the most famous drinks from the two countries from which its menu is derived: sangria from Spain and the mojito from Cuba. Three different types of sangria are available: a red wine and citrus-based house sangria; a version made from Spanish Sangre de Toro wine and Torres brandy; and one based on Cristalino Spanish Cava. The traditional, Bacardi-based mojitos are sold either by the glass or by the pitcher. Finally, a full pitcher of mojito! There's also a list of creative signature cocktails that incorporate Spanish and Cuban influences into some of the classics. It's well worth checking out.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday.

Cha Cha Coconuts Tropical Bar & Grill

Fifth floor of the Pier; (727) 822-6655 chacha-coconuts.com

The vibe: Island fare and fruity, tropical drinks on the top of the Pier, with a bonus observation deck.

Food: Starters, salads and soups, $5.95-$10.95; entrees, $8.95-$16.95.

Booze: Beer, wine and liquor. Beer, $3.50-$4.50; wine, $7-$8; liquor, $4-$8.

Specialty: The house cocktail menu is filled with classic, tropical favorites, some with an added flair, like the Lava Flow, a traditional piña colada spruced up with your choice of tropical fruits; or the Cha Cha-Rita, made from Margaritaville Gold tequila, Gran Gala liqueur and fresh lime juice. Just between us, the cocktails are sometimes a little easy-drinking, so consider adding a shot of Bacaradi 151 on top for an additional $1.51.

Hours: Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Raise a Toast to the Pier

The landmark inverted pyramid that is about to be demolished gets a daylong send-off starting at noon Saturday with local artists, live music, water ski shows, bagpipes and children's activities. The evening party begins at 6 p.m. with celebrity sunset toasts and the Ultimate Pier Cocktail competition. Free; $10 VIP (includes a poster of the Pier, cocktail samples, cake and a commemorative glass). The Pier, 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 637-5586.

Raise a Toast to the Pier

The landmark inverted pyramid that is about to be demolished gets a daylong sendoff starting at noon Saturday with local artists, live music, water ski shows, bagpipes and children's activities. The evening party begins at 6 p.m. with celebrity sunset toasts and the Ultimate Pier Cocktail competition. Free; $10 VIP (includes a poster of the Pier, cocktail samples, cake and a commemorative glass). The Pier, 800 Second Ave. NE, St. Petersburg. (727) 637-5586.

Three great reasons to toast to the Pier: Columbia, Jonny Reno's and Cha Cha Coconuts

05/16/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 12:59am]
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