The latest suggestion from St. Petersburg city councilman Wengay Newton may have been neutralized before any discussion. Newton wants the City Council to discuss delaying the May 31 closure of the St. Petersburg Pier.
"It's just not going to happen," said Richard Gonzmart, whose family owns the Columbia Restaurant and Cha Cha Coconuts.
Those two businesses occupy the most space and pay the most rent to the city.
Gonzmart told FOX 13 News he has made many arrangements based on the May 31 closure, and even staying open until then has been challenging.
"In the last 15 months...our company has subsidized the Pier to the tune of $110,000 in repairs and maintenance and replacements," Gonzmart continued, adding that the menu has already been reduced as kitchen equipment became unreliable. "When we close, basically we're just going to leave everything there."
The idea of delaying the closing surfaced earlier this week from a group called Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg. They have circulated a petition called "Stop the Lens" that calls for a referendum on the proposed replacement for the existing Pier. The group claims to have collected more than enough signatures to force a referendum, which would take place well after May 31.
Newton's request mirrored the citizens group's suggestion. The councilman also noted the loss of hundreds of jobs in downtown St. Petersburg caused by the closing of an insurance company.
"I think it's wise to leave that facility open so people can maintain those jobs and you can still have the economic impact of the tourists going there," Newton said.
Told about Gonzmart's plans, Newton said, "he wants to close and lose money, that's totally up to him. But there's other shops there."
However, the restaurants are the biggest employer at the Pier. City officials say delaying the closing would incur several expenses in addition to the loss of rental income from the restaurants.
The city budget does not include an operating subsidy beyond May 31, and several major maintenance projects have been deferred.
A total cost for delaying the closing is expected to be ready for the city council's discussion next week.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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