Sarasota's Airport Grows Up with a Real Starbucks

Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport is growing up: An actual Starbucks is poised to move in, not one of those stripped-down kiosks, but a real version of the popular specialty coffee store that has become a sure sign of success for any expanding mall or airport.

"What we want to do is to get more brands, and Starbucks is certainly a nice brand," said Fredrick "Rick" Piccolo, the airport's president and chief executive, on Monday. "This is meant to try and draw more people in and create more revenue."

HMSHost, Sarasota-Bradenton's concessions provider, is planning a wholesale upgrade of its offerings at the airport. The Budweiser Brewhouse and Bayfront Restaurant would become a Dewar's Clubhouse Bar & Grille. A Dewar's "To Go" unit would replace the terminal's Fresh Attractions eatery.

HMSHost would make a $1.8 million initial investment in the new food service areas, then spend almost $1 million more during the term of the company's new lease, which would be extended to 15 years.

The new restaurant would not increase the roughly 7,000-square-foot space that the Budweiser Brewhouse occupies, but it would change its look dramatically.

The Dewar's Clubhouse would bring with it a golf course feel -- golf clubs for rails, carpeting resembling the grass on a course, and a projection screen displaying live or recorded tournaments.

A putting green would sit in the center of the dining area.

The menu would consist of grilled items such as crab cakes and burgers. Food prices would remain roughly the same as they are now, with appetizers under $10 and entrees ranging from $12 to $15.

It would be the third Dewar's concept restaurant -- owned by Bacardi -- in the country; the two others are in the Fort Myers and Phoenix airports.

Airport officials have proposed pitching in up to $500,000, mostly for the new seats, chairs and other fixtures needed for the dining area.

But revenue from the increased rents are projected to jump from about $280,000 last year to $392,000 in 2009, which would be the first full year after construction is completed, said Jeff Yablun of HMSHost. The rent is based on a percentage of gross sales, a percentage that will remain near 12 percent if the plans are approved.

HMSHost is also planning on converting the Gourmet Bean store in the terminal to a Freshens Frozen Treats, which will serve ice cream and desserts.

In the concourse, HMSHost will revamp the former Delta Crown Room into the 1,000-square-foot Starbucks. The current High Tides Cafe would become a Island Breeze Bar and Cafe, featuring a beach bar theme with deli sandwiches and salads.

The new agreement would be non-exclusive, which means that other vendors can sell food and beverages at the airport. But if the airport expands, HMSHost gets the first chance to decide if it wants to open another restaurant, bar or specialty concept in the new space.

Airport Authority members gave initial, unanimous approval to the project on Monday, but won't give the go-ahead until they see a few changes in the plans and a lease, which is expected at next month's meeting.

"It's time for the change," Airport Authority Chairwoman Kathy Baylis said. "The facilities are getting a little long in the tooth."

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