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Steakhouse chain eyes Port Richey

Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse is negotiating to take a space in Gulf View Square.

The Tampa-based chain is talking with mall officials about taking the 10,000-square-foot space that Piccadilly's Cafeteria vacated in August 1999. The new restaurant, which would be the company's sixth location, would seat 300 and employ 75 to 100 people. It would be open for dinner only.

Company president Harold Seltzer stressed that a lease has not been signed and negotiations are ongoing.

He said he has been wanting to come to Pasco for more than a year and has been trying to find the right space.

"We've had a number of Pasco County residents that have been Sam Seltzer's fans for years," said Seltzer, who is the grandson of the chain's namesake. "We've been hearing for years from customers, "When are you coming to Port Richey? We'd love to have a restaurant closer to home.' "

In Pasco, Sam Seltzer's would join a cluster of other steakhouses, including Outback, Longhorn, Lone Star and Durango.

Seltzer says he plans to stand out from the crowd. The restaurant buys directly from meat producers in the Midwest, instead of going through a distributor, and stores and ages the meat itself. Sam Seltzer's has a cutting facility in Tampa and two refrigerated trucks make daily deliveries to restaurants.

"We control our main product from the source to the table," Seltzer said.

Main dishes range from $9.95 to $19.95 and include choices such as the 32-ounce roast prime rib of beef and giant lobster tail.

At the mall, Seltzer said that he hopes to create separate outside and mall entrances in addition to outdoor covered seating and valet parking. He said that if negotiations would not proceed with the mall then he would continue looking for another space in Pasco County.

Seltzer co-founded the chain six years ago with his cousin, Michael Seltzer. Other locations are in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa. Seltzer declined to disclose sales figures.

The new restaurant would follow a number of recent changes at Gulf View Square, which is owned by Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group.

The mall underwent a $9-million renovation in 1999 and has ushered in a group of youth-oriented retailers including Pacific Sunwear, Old Navy and Sam Goody's music store. The Gap is coming to the mall soon.

Montgomery Ward closed its 144,000-square-foot store there earlier this year. Dillard's Inc. plans to move into that space and expand, and the mall is looking for a tenant to fill the 107,000-square-foot space Dillard's plans to vacate.