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Special Report – St. Pete Restaurants Dealing with Today’s Economy

Times are tough. While we are all pushing forward, we see the signs around us. Over the last year, some notable local restaurants have called it quits. Pacific Wave, Diner 437 are 2 examples. Some of these were places (like Cheers) where locals would go and everyone would know your name. It’s sad, really.

This report will focus on the reasons why this is happening, the current response of local restaurants and (what I think) are some solutions to consider.
Factors Affecting Local Restaurants – Part 1
One wonders who will be the next to go? Currently several local restaurants are hanging on by a mere thread to survive, while others seem to flourish. Some of them just gave up, understandably.
Take a drive down Beach and try to eat somewhere. If it is before 11 pm at night, make sure you put adequate change in the meter. I’ve personally done this and found the whole experience very stressful. How do you enjoy yourself and worry about the meter the whole time? Other cities, (like Miami) have a number you can call on the meter that will track your time there and you can let them know when you leave. You can have a leisurely dinner, with drinks before or after, listen to music or walk to another establishment without moving your car. It makes sense, doesn’t it? This meter issue is a huge one among local residents and merchants. Everyone I talk to is so tired of it, they hesitate to park their cars in the meter zones downtown for a night out. Who needs another ticket? I don’t. (I’ve had several.)
Some of the restaurants have addressed this issue by offering valet services. But for those smaller, boutique restaurants that can’t afford it, what can they do? This is an issue that really should be addressed by the City of St. Pete, and soon.
Location is another factor that is an ongoing problem. As restaurants open and close, Jannus Landing is refurbished, and Baywalk tries to regain footing, the restaurants are trying to stay alive. Many of them banked on their locations being close to landmarks and as they changed or regrouped, it has had an effect.
Jim Kennedy, City Councilman, proposes relaxing the drinking cut-off and allowing patrons to drink until 3 am as a means of bringing more revenue downtown. While it makes me happy for the establishments, I worry about patrons leaving at 3 am and the local law enforcement that will likely be waiting for them as they drive home. I’m also concerned about people being so tired that they become unaware of how much alcohol they are consuming. However, we are all big kids and the bottom line is responsibility should not have to be legislated. We are grown-ups that should know how to police ourselves.
Everyone is aware that folks are eating out less frequently. Some estimates among non-franchise restaurants are around 40% less revenue than a year ago. Restaurants are responding with some prix fixe menus and other special deals. Tomorrow, I’ll talk about the food cost saving measures some places are taking to combat weaker sales. Some were successful and some, not so much.

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