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Columbia Restaurant Group buys its St. Armands historic location

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

Columbia Restaurant Group purchased the property it has occupied since 1959 on St. Armands Circle. The Columbia group bought the 30,000-square-foot building from St. Armands Circle Investments LLC. The two main tenants of the building are Columbia and Cha Cha Coconuts next door.

The building is home to both a Columbia Restaurant location as well as Cha Cha Coconuts. The second story of the building is leased to other tenants. The sale will lead to a transformation of the rear entrance to the building, which borders the recently completed municipal parking garage.

The Gonzmart Family of Restaurants is a 115-year-old restaurant group that owns and operates 13 Florida restaurants, including the Columbia Restaurant, Ulele, Goody Goody Burgers, Cha Cha Coconuts and Café Con Leche Ybor City. The original Columbia in Ybor City is Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.

The Gonzmart Family also has plans for Longboat Key. In 2016, it purchased PattiGeorge’s, the 40-year-old landmark that operated at 4120 Gulf of Mexico Drive. The family owned company’s self-described “caretaker” Richard Gonzmart said the company will open The Buccaneer on the site of the former PattiGeorge’s on Longboat Key.

The Buccaneer idea is a new concept for the 115-year-old restaurant group that owns and operates 13 Florida restaurants, including the Columbia Restaurant, Ulele, Goody Goody Burgers, Cha Cha Coconuts and Café Con Leche Ybor City. The original Columbia in Ybor City is Florida’s oldest restaurant and the largest Spanish restaurant in the world.

The Buccaneer name is a nod to Longboat Key’s culinary past.

“My parents’ favorite restaurant, besides the Columbia, was Herb Field’s The Buccaneer Inn on Longboat Key,” said Gonzmart, fourth generation “caretaker” of the family restaurant group. “My goal and my dream is to make this new restaurant an architectural gem and to pay homage to some of that restaurant’s beloved menu items, such as oysters and prime rib, as well as to add distinctive touches.”

Gonzmart has been working with architects on exterior and interior design ideas for the restaurant, which will still have boat slips. On travels around the world, he acquired antiques and artifacts from the “golden age” of the buccaneers for use in the new restaurant.

The Gonzmarts have their own history in Sarasota and Longboat Key.

“My dad opened a second Columbia Restaurant on St. Armands Circle in 1959,” Gonzmart said. “He loved Sarasota and Longboat Key and always told me if any opportunity came for a waterfront location that I should go for it. I already had many projects in the works when the PattiGeorge’s location was offered for sale. But I didn’t hesitate and we closed on the purchase very quickly.”

And after last week’s purchase of the St. Armands Circle property, the restaurant group’s real estate holdings have just expanded to two of our barrier islands.

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