Hospitality industry should continue to thrive in 2015
City Center Orlando loader
01 / 02 / 15
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After a year that saw a slew of high profile and successful restaurant openings, introduced four new boutique hotels and generated record tourism

After a year that saw a slew of high profile and successful restaurant openings, introduced four new boutique hotels and generated record tourism — and with the recession becoming more and more a memory — there's every reason to expect momentum in the hospitality industry to continue.

Restaurants

Nothing as sexy as Ulele, Fodder & Shine or Ava is on the books for 2015, but that could change, with independent operators emboldened by those successes.

A few eateries are nearing completion. In Q1, Sea Salt and Ruth's Chris are slated to open in downtown St. Petersburg's Sundial. Noble Crust on Fourth Street should debut in January, as should Ferg's, the sports bar/entertainment spot in Channelside across from Amelie Arena.

Several chains — Besito, Tom+Chee, Buffalo Wings & Rings and Twin Peaks among them — will make their Bay area debuts this year. Chain operators across the board are pushing expansion in Tampa Bay.

One ongoing impediment that surfaced in '14 — and might worsen in the coming months — is dwindling real estate inventory for new concepts, which could increase competition for space and drive up rents.

Hotels

The beaches are where the action is. The 91-room Courtyard Marriott Madeira Beach is slated to open in February. An influx of institutional money has sparked energy on Clearwater Beach. The under-construction Opal Sands Resort — 15 stories, 230 rooms — is touting a fall '15 open. Several others, a few of them 10 stories and above, are in various stages of development.

Others will come down the line. Jeff Vinik's blockbuster downtown development vision includes a 400-roomer. Across Tampa Bay, the Kolter Group's mixed-use plan for the Tropicana block in downtown St. Pete includes a hotel.

A cartel of local developers has applied to get approval to build a $47 million, four-star hotel in a historic building on 7th Avenue in Ybor City.

A question we raised a few months ago: When, or will, Tampa Bay get a legitimate five-star hotel? We could get an answer in 2015.

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