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Walk-On’s opens in Midtown Tampa; at least 5 more planned in Tampa Bay

Owners are looking at locations in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Sarasota counties, as well as the Brooksville-Ocala area.
Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux at Midtown Tampa held its grand opening on Monday. The chain is planning at least five more locations in Tampa Bay in the coming years.
Walk-On's Sports Bistreaux at Midtown Tampa held its grand opening on Monday. The chain is planning at least five more locations in Tampa Bay in the coming years. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published Jun. 20|Updated Jun. 20

You couldn’t have picked a better day to cut the ribbon on Walk-On’s Sports Bistreaux, a new sports restaurant and bar chain at Midtown Tampa.

“There is literally no better place to watch the Lightning win the Stanley Cup than here,” said franchisee Mike Lester.

With 84 televisions around the restaurant, Walk-On’s is poised to become a busy destination for sports viewing in central Tampa. But Lester, who already operates Walk-On’s franchises in Wesley Chapel and Lakeland, is already thinking bigger.

The Cajun-inspired chain is planning five other locations around Tampa Bay, Lester said, and that number could rise. While the ink isn’t dry on those contracts, he said, there are specific sites where he thinks the concept could succeed.

“We’re fans of Pinellas County, St. Pete and Clearwater,” he said. “Also Brandon and Riverview, we love those areas as well. Go a little bit farther north, and we’re also looking at Brooksville and Ocala. And also, you go down to Sarasota and Bradenton, those are areas we’re also targeting as well.”

Related: Inside Walk-On's, Midtown Tampa's new 'sports restaurant' opening soon

The chain has grown rapidly nationwide, with the three Tampa Bay restaurants employing between 140 and 180 employees apiece. Lester said the Midtown location received more than 2,000 job applications.

Brandon Landry, the former Louisiana State University walk-on basketball player who co-founded the restaurant with backing from former New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, said Tampa Bay could potentially be one of the chain’s strongest markets.

“The market can probably hold at least a dozen,” said Landry, who came to Tampa for the grand opening. “We have seven in the Baton Rouge metro area. That’s our home market, but it just shows you, it’s a little over a half a million people, and we have seven restaurants, and they all do really well.”

The Midtown Walk-On’s is a little different than most other locations, Landry and Lester said. The $1 billion development near N Dale Mabry Highway and Interstate 275 has hundreds of apartments and hotel rooms, and is wet-zoned throughout, so people can grab a drink from a walk-up window and take it into a main courtyard area.

“When I walked in this thing this morning, I was like, ‘My goodness, I want one of these in my backyard,’” Landry said. “It’s got character, you’ve got the high ceilings, you’ve got TV areas, you’ve got a pedestrian walkway in front. Honestly, you couldn’t pick a better location.”

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