CLEARWATER, Fla. — A grant program, revived from 2017, just awarded four downtown businesses tens of thousands of dollars to help improve their existing interior space or help build out their restaurant from scratch.
The city voted on Feb. 19 to award the grants to bring more restaurants downtown in the hope it will lead to more people coming downtown.
“Personally, as a business owner, that took an incredible amount of risk to open in a downtown that’s being challenged, this is very exciting and very rewarding,” Lina Teixeira the co-owner of Pour Yours on Cleveland Street told us. “This sends a clear message that the city is willing to work with the private sector or the business community to revitalize Clearwater and we needed to hear that message.”
Blackbrick Tavern and Kitchen; Tequilas Mexican Grill and Cantina; and Vector Bar and Arcade also were awarded grants.
Amanda Thompson, the Director of the Community Redevelopment Agency for the City of Clearwater, said more grants are already in the works.
“So, for the property owner grants, we’ve had nine different spaces who prequalified already,” Thompson said. “And, they’ve been given a couple of months to land a food and drink tenant who will be open nights and weekends from Wednesday through Saturday. There’s not a lot of options for dinner or on the weekend. So, our program is really targeted to attract the nightlife.”
Clearwater beach is famous for its fantastic sand and calm surf. Many tourists drive right through the heart of downtown Clearwater to get to the beach but never stop to check out downtown. Teixeira tells us tthat is slowly starting to change.
“I have this very visceral feeling that it’s going to get a lot better,” Teixeira said. “There are very clear indicators that it is. Three years ago I would look up every time someone passed by because it was that rare. Now, I don’t do that. However, it is nowhere near where it needs to be.”
Events like Blast Friday, a street festival on the last Friday of every month, and the upcoming Sea-Blues seafood festival are bringing a lot of people downtown. Teixeira said the trick is getting them to come back when there aren’t events going on.
“If it’s the last thing I do, I will be part of the dream that gets downtown Clearwater to be the destination everyone wants to go to,” she said.