Steve and Nancy Westphal stand inside the entrance to the 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House at 400 Beach Drive in downtown St. Petersburg.
ST. PETERSBURG – When Steve Westphal describes his years of success operating bars and restaurants in Pinellas County, he points to the 1979 Bob Dylan song “Gotta Serve Somebody.”
“This is as straight up as you can get with that,” said Westphal, who was named the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce Tourism Person of the Year last week. “It’s a responsibility and we take that responsibility very seriously. There’s a lot of pride involved in our product.”
Westphal, 54, has been taking his craft seriously for 40 years. From his early days as a 14-year-old bus boy at The Pub in Indian Shores to his present day multi-restaurant operation in Pinellas County, customer service, value and quality have been buzzwords to his success.
Westphal now owns The Pub, in addition to the 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House, Parkshore Grill and The Hangar in downtown St. Petersburg. Between the four locations, he has seating for over 1,100 customers.
Westphal also operates Café Gala in the Dalí Museum, a catering company out of the Parkshore Grill and will soon break ground on a new “upscale casual” restaurant called the Gulf Grill in Madeira Beach.
“I have a great loyal staff, which makes it easier with a multitude of stores,” Westphal said. “People work some of their hours at one place and some of their hours at another. It’s like an extended family.”
But through it all, three things have been the key, he said.
“It takes hard work, dedication and a whole lot of patience,” said Westphal. “It’s a people business and I enjoy people and caring for people.”
After graduating from Seminole High School, Westphal worked 12 years as a waiter at the Wine Cellar in North Redington Beach. At age 29, he purchased the Sports Bar and Grill on Bay Pines Boulevard, which he owned for 20 years.
He purchased The Pub about 10 years later at age 39.
“Through the years, when opportunity has presented itself, I’ve been able to take advantage of it,” Westphal said. “The Sports Bar and The Pub were one thing but when it came to opening stores downtown, I’d have to give kudos to chef Tyson Grant.”
Grant and Westphal teamed up to open the 240-seat Parkshore Grill in 2006. It has since developed into a 4-Star restaurant, according to TripAdvisor.com. Two blocks down the street, 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House is ranked 4 1/2 stars.
“He (Grant) was recommended to me when I opened the Parkshore and with Tyson we’ve been able to expand on these different formats downtown,” said Westphal. “Tyson takes care of the menu and I take care of the business. He’s my best and closest ally in this business. He takes care of what goes on the plates and I take care of what goes on in the dining room.”
Westphal’s restaurants have been a major part of the transformation in recent years of Beach Drive turning into a destination.
Visitors from South Tampa and Sarasota are among the regulars now.
“It’s a gold mine,” Westphal said. “Beach Drive has evolved into the see and be seen area of St. Petersburg where you can enjoy multi-culinary experiences in a beautiful waterfront environment.”
So what lies on the horizon for Westphal?
“My wife and I are working to develop a condominium project on Indian Shores, just a block away from The Pub,” he said.
The project, located at 20025 Gulf Blvd., is called The Pinnacle and will feature five single-family residences, one per floor.
“That way we can cohabitate on both sides of the coast,” said Westphal, who currently resides with his wife Nancy in a Beach Drive high-rise. “We’ll maintain our home downtown and one out on the coast.”
But his plans don’t stop there.
Westphal said he has plans to upgrade The Pub.
“We’ve always continued to improve on what we have along with looking for new opportunities,” said Westphal. “I say that because when we go out to The Pub, I have some exciting plans for some expansion.”
Without getting into much detail, he said tentative plans call for a new waterfront bar and perhaps a roof-top bar, along with some menu upgrades.
“You know, when I bought The Pub, it was pizza and fried seafood and spaghetti,” he said. “The menu has constantly evolved and we want to keep going in that direction.”
No timetable is set for The Pub expansion other than some time after the Gulf Grill is open.
Westphal said since purchasing The Pub 15 years ago, the eatery has served more than 5 million customers.