Historic downtown St. Petersburg cafeteria to reopen as beer garden

The Tramor Cafeteria, owned by the Tampa Bay Times, will now become a German restaurant and beer garden.
The Tramor Cafeteria, owned by the Tampa Bay Times, will now become a German restaurant and beer garden.
Published Sept. 19, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tramor Cafeteria, built in 1929 and owned by the Tampa Bay Times since 1981, is under contract to be sold to a Chicago company that plans to open a German restaurant and beer garden.

Hofbrauhaus also has locations in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas and Munich.

The 15,000-square-foot space at 123 Fourth St. S has been on the market to sell or lease since 2012. The price was not released. The deal is expected to close Friday.

The Mediterranean-style building with its colorful tiles, balconies, arches and swirling columns started as a seasonal cafeteria for winter visitors and later was a popular lunch spot for downtown workers and area residents.

It first opened as Bob's Cafeteria in 1930, but was bought and renovated in grand style in 1939 by brothers Lander, Enar and Henry Haige. Charcoal broilers roasted steaks and chops while big ovens turned out 116 pies every 25 minutes.

Lines of loyal patrons wrapped the building each year for the November season opening, which often celebrated with free cake and coffee.

The cafeteria line has been silent for several years but Times employees have used it as a place to eat lunch brought from home and for meetings.

"The Tramor is a perfect location for downtown St. Petersburg's thriving restaurant and brewery scene," said Jana Jones, Times chief financial officer.

Josef Matuschka, owner of the new restaurant who lives in Chicago, could not be reached for comment.

The existing Hofbrauhaus locations serve lunch and dinner with all the German standbys such as schnitzel, wieners, Bavarian potato salad, sauerkraut, spatzle and strudel. The kids' menu features American standbys like hot dogs, macaroni and cheese and chicken tenders.

The restaurant's website boasts that it brews beer using recipes handed down by the Duke of Bavaria 400 years ago. Stores tend to carry four permanent beers on tap plus monthly specials.

The site also shows pictures of indoor beer gardens with big tables, a center fountain and ceiling painted to resemble the sky. The Tramor's ceiling already is painted with a blue sky and fluffy clouds.

Along with live music seven nights a week, the other locations also offer banquet facilities.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Katherine Snow Smith at (727) 893-8785 or Follow @snowsmith.