Steve and Nancy Westphal show off part of the new menu that will debut in October at The Pub in Indian Shores.
INDIAN SHORES – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, the saying goes. Yet, when it comes to The Pub in Indian Shores, owner Steve Westphal is going to fix it anyway.
Westphal has revealed plans to make over the iconic beach establishment at 20025 Gulf Blvd., which he has owned for 15 years.
“It is really hard to change anything in The Pub,” he said. “I’ve kept my hands off it for the past five or six years but now I’m hoping to take the best of what’s working down there and bring it here.”
Down there means the four restaurants he owns in downtown St. Petersburg. Since buying The Pub in 1998, Westphal also owns 400 Beach Seafood, the Parkshore Grill, the Hangar at the Albert Whitted Airport and the Café inside the Salvador Dalí Museum.
Westphal says he realizes that the menu must constantly change to prevent it from getting old.
“You can take the bottom 20 percent on any menu and just throw it out, it just isn’t selling, so you have to replace it with something new,” he said.
In fact when you talk to Westphal about changes at the Pub he focuses on the menu and the kitchen, something most patrons don’t really see.
“We’re establishing a new food line in the kitchen,” he said. “We’ll be able to produce more sautéed items and introduce new farm-fresh produce. What some of these food changes mean is that things will be fresher. We’re just trying to get healthy products, something that people in all restaurants are demanding.”
Work on the kitchen is already underway and should be finished in early September at the latest. Westphal hopes the new menu will be in full swing by Oct. 1.
When the snowbirds return later in the fall and early winter there will be more than just a new menu for them to see at The Pub. If everything goes as planned they will hardly recognize the place.
The biggest change will be in the inside dining area. The small gift shop, which is located in the lobby, will be moved into the dining area near the side entrance to the deck. Additionally, the dance floor will be eliminated to make room for an expanded bar.
“We really didn’t have enough room for people to sit and wait to get a table,” said Westphal. “The new bar will provide that and although we’ll be losing some tables to make way for the gift shop, it will ease the strain on the kitchen during the peak season.”
The changes aren’t just restricted to the inside however. There are plans to revamp the main deck and put a roof over the whole thing. The bar in that area also will be moved slightly to open up more space for tables, and there will be considerable rearranging once the work is done. Westphal hopes the new alignment outside will make up for some of the lost tables inside.
The biggest change will occur on the north deck of the restaurant, and it is that part of the project that hasn’t been quite decided yet. One thing Westphal does know is that the entertainment will be moved to that area.
“Customers have been asking me for some time about having outdoor entertainment,” he said. “We’re convinced that the entertainment will be better used outdoors.”
Although he hasn’t committed to it completely, Westphal says it is very likely he will build a tiki bar on the north deck, somewhere else customers can gather while they wait for a table.
“I’m hoping my design people are working on that right now so we can get started,” he said.
If all goes according to plan, the work on the inside bar should be finished by the end of September or early October. Work on the new roof over the main deck should be finished by December.
If that isn’t enough for Westphal, he’s planning on beginning construction on a new waterside restaurant in Madeira Beach in early September. Groundbreaking is slated for Sept. 9.
It has been a long road for Westphal who began working at The Pub as a busboy in the early 1970s. He was fired from that job but stayed in the food industry until he bought The Pub in 1998. Now with The Pub, the new Madeira Beach project, and the four restaurants downtown, he admits he finds himself occasionally overwhelmed.
“It has grown into a full-time job, it is definitely a career,” he said. “When I get a little overwhelmed and try to make rhyme or reason about it all I just think that I’m blessed to be in a position to support my family and my employees and their families. And when I ask myself why I’m doing all this I go to the hostess desk and look around and see people smiling. We’ve created a gathering place for people who enjoy each other’s company and that’s good enough for me.”