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St. Pete restaurant company raises $4.2 million for Crabby’s expansion

Margie Manning

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Crabby's Dockside in Clearwater Beach

Beachside Hospitality Group is in expansion mode.

The St. Petersburg-based restaurant company has five properties under construction or in the planning phases, including its first restaurants on the east coast of Florida, said Julia Cassino, Beachside’s director of marketing.

Two projects will bring The Salty Crab Bar & Grill and Sweet Willy’s Ice Cream Shoppe to Clearwater Beach. A Crabby’s Oceanside is planned for Daytona Beach, and investors recently provided $4.2 million in funding for a Crabby’s Dockside restaurant and a Sweet Willy’s Ice Cream Shoppe in Fort Pierce.

The planned projects will nearly double the size of Beachside Hospitality, which currently has a half-dozen restaurant properties in Clearwater Beach, St. Cloud in central Florida, Fort Myers Beach in southwest Florida, and at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. Beachside was formed in 2014 with the consolidation of two management companies. The management team is made up of Greg Powers, who is CEO; Lisa Smithson, chief financial officer; Eddie Wright, chief operating officer; and Gary Hardie, vice president.

While many of Beachside’s properties have “Crabby’s” in their name, the company is separate from Crabby Bill’s Family Brands, with eight restaurants in the Tampa-St. Pete area.

Winking Starfish LLC, a limited liability company managed by Beachside Hospitality, raised $2.3 million in equity from 13 investors, according to an Aug. 1 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The full $4.2 million sought in the equity offering has subsequently been raised from business associates, friends and family, Cassino said.

The money will finance the demolition and construction of the new building that will become Crabby’s Dockside in Fort Pierce.

It will be located at the site of the former Original Tiki Bar, a fixture on the Fort Pierce waterfront. The City Commission last year awarded Crabby’s Dockside a 20-year lease with two five-year renewals to operate the restaurant at the Fort Pierce Marina, TCPalm reported.

The 7,000-square-foot restaurant will have 280 seats, including some seating outdoors, and is expected to open next spring. It will be similar to the flagship Crabby’s Dockside in Clearwater Beach and other Beachside Hospitality properties, but with an atmosphere unique to the geographic area, Cassino said.

“While Crabby’s Dockside Clearwater Beach and Crabby’s Dockside Fort Pierce will have very close similarities when it comes to the menu, we will also be adding in local fresh catch fish to the menu for Crabby’s Dockside Fort Pierce, as the fishing on the west coast is vastly different than on the east coast of Florida, and we want to be sure to showcase this,” Cassino said.

Crabby’s Oceanside also has taken over what once was Cocina 214 along South Atlantic Avenue in Daytona Beach, and is looking to open there by Sept. 1, Cassino said.

The company typically funds its projects with financial backing from family, friends and business associates, but the Fort Pierce project was slightly different.

“Because this location’s cost was much larger than what we normally see, it was decided to seek out other investors, aside from the norm,” Cassino said.

Beachside had a similar filing for Salty’s Island Bar & Grille in Clearwater Beach a few years ago, she  said.

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