After 12 successful years at the owner’s table, restauranteur Steve Westphal has sold 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House.
Volet Hospitality, which purchased Alto Mare and Annata Wine Bar last December, bought the popular Beach Drive eatery in conjunction with philanthropists Shawn and Jeanna Dampkoehler.
For Westphal, 62, it was a bittersweet business deal. “We received what I consider to be a very good offer and decided to lighten the load and drift a little bit towards semi-retirement,” said the 62-year-old owner of St. Pete Hospitality Group.
“We don’t part with any of them without heartfelt emotions,” he added. “It’s definitely a double-edged sword. We loved our time at the 400 Beach, but the offer did come. The business is changing rapidly, and sometimes there are additional challenges that weren’t part of it before. So we’re going to continue to focus more on the brands we have, and take even better care of what we’ve got.”
St. Pete Hospitality Group owns the Hangar, Parkshore Grill and Café Gala at the Dali Museum.
At one point, eight St. Pete restaurants bore the Westphal brand.
“It’s the toughest business in the world, and I’ve been doing it for 40 years. And at some point I said ‘I’m going to reap some rewards and enjoy myself.
“We have three entities that we’re quite content with, and for whatever duration of time that is, has yet to be discovered. But I’m very happy with what we have at this juncture.”
Jacob Linzey, co-owner of Volet Hospitality, said part of the allure of the 8,200-square-foot 400 Beach was its expansive “banquet” kitchen. “One of the challenges with Alta Mare and Annata is really limited kitchen space,” he explained. “So we were looking not just at ‘What’s one thing that can stand on its own?’ but ‘What’s one thing that can also support our operations?’
“So 400 Beach kind of hit a bunch of chords for us – obviously, the reputation being the main thing that attracted us to it, but then when we started to see it could support other operations, it was a no-brainer for us.”
Westphal remains proud of 400 Beach’s year-over-year growth chart.
“When I came down here with my 300 seats, the St. Pete Times said ‘Why are you opening down there? There’s nothing going on.’ When we opened at the Hangar, they said ‘Why are you opening there? You’ll never make it.’ So to the naysayers, I say this town is going to continue to grow. There are multiple 40-story buildings right behind there.”
A dozen years in, he said, “We’ve done very well for ourselves, and I see no reason why we shouldn’t take the time to enjoy the fruits of our labors.”