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Negotiations to begin for new Columbia restaurant at new Pier

Published Apr. 4, 2013

ST. PETERSBURG — With no other restaurant submitting a competing bid to operate at the new Pier, negotiations with the Columbia Restaurant are set to begin in earnest.

The proposed lease calls for the family-owned Columbia to operate a restaurant on the approach to the Lens, the city's proposed new $50 million Pier, as well as a smaller restaurant at the Lens itself. The deal could go before the City Council in June, said Chris Ballestra, the city's managing director of development coordination.

Mayor Bill Foster held a news conference in February to announce an agreement with the Columbia to run restaurants at the Pier. State law, however, required that the city also invite other businesses to submit proposals for the restaurant sites. A newspaper notice set April 2 as the deadline for other offers.

As proposed in February, the initial 10-year Columbia lease calls for the restaurant to pay a minimum annual rent of $15 per square foot at the Hub — an area to be located at the Pier's Pelican parking lot — for the first five years and $20 per square foot for the next five years. The Columbia would pay $10 per square foot for space at the Lens itself. The city would receive a percentage of annual sales from both sites.

The new Columbia restaurant on the Pier approach is expected to have 7,500 square feet of air-conditioned space and indoor seating for 220. There will be outdoor seating for about 100 and a rooftop venue.

Ballestra said the Columbia will work with Lens designer Michael Maltzan Architecture and consultants to create the restaurant spaces.

"I wouldn't expect to see any 'pretty pictures' for a long time — the discussion just started," Ballestra wrote in an email.

The Columbia opened at the current Pier in 1988. It also owns the Cha Cha Coconuts, a bar and grill, on the roof.

Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at or (727) 892-2283.