Announced in early December, the renovation of the Fish Tales Seafood House, and its transformation into The Big Catch at Salt Creek, is taking a bit longer than originally planned.
A lease on the property, part of Harborage Marina in old southeast St. Pete (the address is 1500 2nd Street South), was acquired by business partners Mario Farias, Jon LaBudde and Larry Munch, operating as Boys in the Burg, LLC.
In a Catalyst story published Dec. 3, the three restaurateurs – along with operating partners Pete Boland and Ian Taylor – waxed poetic about the major changes in store for the popular-but-rundown neighborhood watering hole. The Big Catch, they said, would open in early January.
“If 20 people a day don’t stop by to check out our progress, nobody does,” marvels Farias, a partner in the successful Pipo’s and Callaloo restaurants. “The support that we’re getting from the community, on social media and in person, is amazing.”
However. “People understand that we want to do it right, and they appreciate that.”
The kitchen and dining room have been extensively overhauled and painted, and the equipment is scheduled to arrive sometime this week. Likewise, the buildout is about to begin on the facility’s indoor and outdoor bars. A chef, and a front-of-house manager, have been procured. Target date for opening is now the first week in March.
“What happened was this: When we got inside there, we realized that the electrical system in the building was inadequate for what it should be,” Farias explains. “And the same with the plumbing. So we opted to change out all the electrical, and all the plumbing, which requires permits and drawings and engineers and everybody else involved, and you know how time-consuming that can be.”
The Big Catch – named for a popular downtown nightspot owned years back by partner LaBudde – is envisioned as a “neighborhood seafood place,” with a spectacular waterfront view.
Classy, but not too. “As St. Pete grows up, we can’t let it grow up so much that we forget what our roots are,” Farias enthuses. “There are so many great restaurants on Beach Drive, and up and down Central, but we cannot forget the flip flop crowd.”
The Big Catch project hit another bump in the road when Boland and Taylor, who own The Galley restaurant and bar on 4th Street near Central, dropped out in mid-December.
As Boland tells it, exactly one day before their first meeting with the Boys in the Burg, they’d been handed the keys to the Galley’s nextdoor neighbor, the closed Shisha Cafe Hookah Lounge. Dreams of expansion had been in the air since the Galley opened at the tail end of 2016.
Coming to 37 4th Street North in early March is The Ship’s Hold, envisioned by Boland and Taylor as a top-shelf rum bar, specializing in craft cocktails. “I’ve got a lot of longtime patrons, and friends and family, that often come in and can’t get a table here,” Boland explains. “Or get a bar seat. So we’re trying to solve that problem.”
While planning their new venture, Boland and Taylor entered into a handshake agreement with the proprietors of The Big Catch. As time went on, they realized they might have over-extended themselves … and once contracts with Farias, et al were put in front of them, they realized they just couldn’t make it work.
So they pulled out.
“I just think the timing was all wrong for us,” Boland says, “and we wish them all the best.”
Farias, likewise, only has nice things to say about his ex-partners. “We just wish them the best; we don’t want them to fail at anything,” he says “Because we really like Pete and Ian. Our hope is one day when Pete and Ian get settled in, they can come back aboard.”
The Ship’s Hold, meanwhile, will add 800 square feet to the 2,000-square-foot Galley; by partially knocking down a wall, Taylor – whose expertise is the buildout – realized the kitchen can run the length of both facilities (there’s a small foyer separating the two storefronts).
“When we took the Galley space over, it was a 45-seat venue,” explains Boland. “It’s always been a small dining room, but we’ve packed it out to the gills. We always knew we didn’t have enough space to do everything we wanted to do.” (The plan is for The Ship’s Hold, with its full liquor bar, to be open 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. several days per week, and to be made available for holiday parties, receptions, business gatherings and the like).
Adds Boland: “We know one thing for sure – our guests are going to tell us where we need to go with what we’re doing. If the demand is for more dining space, we’ll figure out how to get more dining in there.”
The expansion, he explains, “is just something we’ve always thought would take this business to the next level. To become this great anchor tenant on the block.
“We just love what we’re doing, and where we’re at. It feels really good right now.”