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Longboat Key Monday, Apr. 8, 2019 7 months ago

Restaurant planned for former Longboat gas station

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Whitney's restaurant is hoped to be complete in the fall at intersection of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway Street.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

After multiple owners and several years of debate, the former gas station at the intersection of Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway Street will soon be transformed into a casual restaurant. 

The 2,128-square-foot restaurant, dubbed Whitney’s in honor of Gordon and Laura Whitney and Whitney Plaza, will be a place where beachgoers can grab a bite in a more casual setting, said site developer James Brearley. 

“There are a lot of great restaurants that are institutions on Longboat. They are sit-down and have a higher check average,” Brearley said. “They are an amazing part of this island, but I personally don’t want that for every meal. I think there is room on the island for a more casual concept.” 

With its planned outdoor showers and walk-up counter, Whitney’s, as proposes, will be just that. The menu will feature salads, bowls, sandwiches and tacos, while a limited coffee and breakfast menu also is planned. 

The canopy over the pumps of the former gas station at Gulf of Mexico Drive and Broadway Street was demolished in March.

Additionally, a small amount of convenience items such as sunscreen and bottles of water will be on sale. Popular beach access sites are nearby. 

“There aren’t too many informal meeting places on the island,” Brearley said. “The most important thing for us is we want the whole community to feel like this is their place to relax and get some great food.” 

With design team Studio Tack from Brooklyn, N.Y., and local architect Robert Rokop working on the project, Brearley said Whitney’s will be modern while keeping its Longboat roots. 

The old gas station canopy has been demolished, with a new one planned to replace it. Brearley said the design concept — leisure combined with American utility — is meant to beautify the north entrance to Longboat. The former gas station's roll-up garage bay door has been incorporated into the design.

With completion scheduled for the fall, the project is running full steam ahead. Once complete, Brearley hopes Whitney’s will serve as a stopping point when traffic makes leaving the island difficult. 

Brearley previously tried to build a hotel on the former gas station lot, but that proposal was rejected by voters in 2016. He also worked on projects such as the Oxford Exchange in Tampa and Buddy Brew Coffee in Tampa and Sarasota and hopes to bring the success those businesses have seen to Longboat.  

“We really want the aesthetics and operation to be something that people are proud to have on the island,” Brearley said.” 

The plans for the restaurant, which will be submitted to the town within the next 30 days, accommodate for the planned roundabout at the intersection of Broadway Street and Gulf of Mexico Drive. There is no current timeline for the roundabout, but Brearley said he wanted to have a plan in place, should it happen.  The town has set aside $150,000 to study its feasibility.

Besides the Floridays Development Co.’s previous plan for a boutique hotel on the spot, the former gas station had been looked at by developers before. Most recently, there was a proposal to reopen the site as its original use, a gas station, which fell apart over the summer.

Property records show the site was sold to The Whitney LBK LLC Oct. 19 for $550,000. Brearley confirmed he has acquired the site, which was listed for $545,000. The previous owner was Tampa-based J.H. Williams Oil Co., which bought the site in August 2005 for $512,100.

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