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Chicago Deli closes over lease dispute

The downtown restaurant anticipates re-opening in a new location within two months.

By SHARON BOND

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- The Chicago Deli Downtown at 277 Central Ave. has closed because of a dispute over rent and hours of operation, according to owner and landlord.

The last full day of business was Thursday, although the deli was open for a few hours Saturday because there still was food to sell.

Owner Kathryn A. Walsh of St. Petersburg plans to re-open in another downtown location in six to eight weeks. She said most of her customers at Chicago Deli were regular patrons from nearby downtown offices. They came for sandwiches, hot dogs, salads, baked potatoes and soups.

"The rent has gotten out of hand," Walsh said.

B&G Property Services Inc. would not give her another long-term lease, and the month-to-month rate was double her usual $2,635 per month rent. To pay that, she would have had to double prices and cut back on service, Walsh said Tuesday.

The Chicago Deli was a lunch restaurant, open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and on Saturdays when the Florida International Museum was open. Walsh said her landlord told her that with all of the competition downtown, she needed to change her format.

Al Bobelis, a partner at B&G Property, said the deli should have been open more than just a few hours a day.

"There is business to be had here at night," he said. "It's a spot where somebody could be operating seven days a week all day long. That would be its highest and best use."

Bobelis said he did not have another tenant for the space.

The deli opened in 1991 -- when downtown storefronts were more empty than filled. Since the International Museum opened in 1995, more and more restaurants opened in the same area as the deli.

Walsh has her eye on another downtown spot. Once she has settled into a new location, Walsh hopes to open a second deli on either Fourth Street or M.L. King (Ninth) Street N.

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