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Popular grill may come to BayWalk

The owners of the popular Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores want to open a second Salt Rock in downtown St. Petersburg, and BayWalk is among the possible sites.

Co-owner Frank Chivas declined to identify the two other properties he and his partners are negotiating on, or which spots they are eyeing at BayWalk. The new restaurant's menu would be the same, he said, and he hopes to begin construction within several months.

"We're very strong on downtown St. Pete," Salt Rock chef Tom Pritchard added. "But the ink hasn't been put on any paper yet."

A new, high-profile restaurant opening could be good news for BayWalk and the area surrounding it, which were the site of a much-publicized melee Friday night.

Chivas, Pritchard and partner Don Cate have built a small empire of successful seafood restaurants in Pinellas County, including Hogfish Grill Deep Sea Bar-B-Que in Clearwater and Island Way Grill off Clearwater Beach. Chivas said he recently opened a new restaurant called Darlin Marlin in Jupiter and plans to open a second one in Pinellas County.

Rumors about Salt Rock's growth plans grew confused earlier this week. Pritchard said he received a number of calls asking whether the 7-year-old waterfront restaurant was closing to make way for a new condominium development. The source of the confusion may have been the apartment building next door, which he said is converting to condos.

Chivas, a father of five, said he remains interested in BayWalk despite last week's youth-driven brawl.

"I think they're all ignoring the real problem: There's no place for kids to go on Friday and Saturday nights," he said. He challenged local business and government leaders to take a piece of publicly-owned waterfront land in St. Petersburg and turn it into a teen haven, with an amphitheater, skate park, basketball courts and other amenities.

Craig Sher, president and CEO of BayWalk's owner, the Sembler Co., did not return a call for comment Wednesday afternoon.

If Salt Rock were to come to BayWalk, it would join a group of tenants that now includes Adobo Grill, Dan Marino's Fine Foods and Spirits, Dish, Gratzzi's Ristorante, Johnny Rockets, Tokyo Sushi Cafe and TooJay's Gourmet Deli.

Scott Barancik can be reached at baranciksptimes.com or (727) 893-8751.

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