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Trader Vics, St. Petersburg, FL (restaurant) - Photo Updates from Visit

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Name:Trader Vics
Street:6800 Sunshine Skyway Lane
City:St. Petersburg

Trader Vic's only Florida location was on the property of the Sheraton Bel-Air resort hotel and marina in St. Petersburg. The property changed to the Outrigger Inn and is currently the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort. It is unclear when this location of Trader Vics was operational.

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff on 2005-01-10 01:55 ]

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff 2006-03-16 19:30 ]

St. Petersburg had a Trader Vics restaurant, but other than a matchbook I was unable to find a postcard or other visual evidence that identified the location: the Sheraton Bel-Air hotel in St. Petersburg.

I finally found what I was looking for on e-bay. This postcard...


The postcard reads in part, "The world famous Trader Vic's restaurant with delightful American and Oriental menus is here, too."

When I saw this postcard, I sensed there was something familar about it. When I compared it to the images below, I realized it was the same place.

This hotel started out as the the Sheraton Bel Air with a Trader Vics restaurant and at some point became the Outrigger Inn. They had "Four Exotic Cocktail Lounges - Polynesian and American Foods in Tiki, South Seas or Kona Rooms or in Beefeater Restaurant."
Bigbro points out that some of Trader Vics original properties were called Outrigger restaurants.

In my opinion this must have been one hell of a setting for a Trader Vics. Not too far from Tiki Gardens and MGM's Bounty either. Too bad it didn't last.

Tiki Gardner figured out this hotel is now the Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort. Someone needs to find out if any traces of the tiki past are still there.

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff 2006-03-16 18:37 ]

Here's more about the name changes this hotel went through.

St. Petersburg Times Publishing Co. Aug 24, 1997

The Days Inn Marina Beach Resort, a 157-room landmark hotel, will become a Holiday Inn SunSpree by 1998, the hotel's manager said Friday.

A $2-million renovation project is under way, and a new restaurant called The Periscope is planned, said general manager Steve Springman.

The hotel, at 6800 Sunshine Skyway Lane S, has long been familiar to motorists driving south just before they head across the Skyway bridge.

It opened in the 1960s as two establishments: The Doctors Motel and Outrigger Inn. It later was the Sheraton Bel Air Resort, and became a Days Inn in 1987.

As part of the switch to SunSpree, interior room renovation is planned, including special rooms for youngsters. Decorative walkways will be installed, and new lobbies will be built.

Management and ownership will stay the same, Springman said. The SunSpree franchise name was purchased by owners Jerome and Carol Mullins of Madison, Wis.

"We're just now letting the public know a change is going to be taking place down here," Springman said. "We plan on hosting a series of events" when the change takes place about Jan. 1, he said.

SunSpree is a marketing arm of Holiday Inn about 5 or 6 years old. It has franchises in popular tourist areas such as Lake Buena Vista; and hotels in Clearwater and St. Pete Beach recently converted to the SunSpree name.

One of the features SunSpree has come up with is a room within a hotel room - a private room for children inside the main guest room, thematically decorated. The new SunSpree will offer the "Kidsuites," and refrigerators, hair dryers and clock radios will be among the new amenities.

Springman said the revamped hotel will continue to pursue the markets it always has: reunion groups, business visitors and families looking for a vacation spot. The hotel will keep its 5,100 square feet of meeting space. "The Hilton and Vinoy outrank us (in available meeting space), but we have largest in south St. Petersburg," Springman said.

The hotel also will offer five tennis courts, two swimming pools, a Jacuzzi, a wading pool for youngsters and a Tampa Bay beach. The Tampa Sailing School also rents space from the hotel's 30-boat marina.

Springman said "business has been stable" the past few years, averaging 70 percent occupancy. He said new room rates will range from $69-$109 off season, $79 to $149 during the heavy tourist months

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff on 2005-01-12 20:19 ]

Marian and I finally went to see and stay at the site of the long-lost Florida Trader Vics in St. Petersburg. It is an older hotel but nicely kept.

Bigbro said one time that when looking for old tiki establishments look for really tall palm trees. This place qualifies.

Other vegetation gives an aged and tropical impression as though someone was planting with Polynesia in mind.

Other tell-tale signs are a few nautical relics.

These overlooked-in-the-remodel architectural details look vaguely Polynesian.

A group of wild wahines could still be found expressing joyous abandon. These young ladies were studied extensively during our visit.

Here is the other best find of the journey, a full-size outrigger canoe that is certainly in keeping with the Vics motif. Maybe leftover from the glory days...

But what about the bar/restaurant? It is in the right location according to the old postcards.

It is now called Nemos for the Captain in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. I think he controlled his submarine by playing a pipe organ similar to the one behind the bar.

The restaurant area, as well as the bar, are larger than they appear in these photos.

And here is the clincher that, yes, this was indeed the site of an ancient tiki temple...

...although I would characterize this poor fellow as a suffering yellow bastard!

This was an awesome location for a Vics and a really nice place to spend a weekend. They did erect a new, industrial-strength and hurricane-proof "tiki" hut on tall pilings complete with a sterile blue metal roof. They had a few tiki drinks on the menu, but what I really liked was Warsteiner on tap.

Oh, and here is a shot of the beach. It was 85 degrees and beautiful last weekend.
The Sunshine Skyway bridge is on the horizon.

KG & Wahine Marian

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff 2006-03-16 20:02 ]

[ Edited by: Kailuageoff 2006-03-16 20:07 ]


KG and Marian-

Excellent detective work! I like how your discovery unfolded:-) One thing that you quoted that I have never thought about before is what BigBro said about when looking for old tiki establishments look for really tall palm trees. That is an interesting observation and one I will have to keep in mind. That area is such a prime location with such beautiful vistas. I am looking forward to exploring it first hand some time in the near future. Keep up the good reporting and thanks for the facts!


I use the Tall Palm Trees method for finding Tiki Apartment Buildings here in Los Angeles too. Palm trees were used out here for a lot of non-tiki apartments as well, but I have had luck finding them this way. I just drive around in a new neighborhood I haven't explored, my eyes fixed above the roofline, steering towards those tall, spindly palms.


Those are some great pics of the old "Trader Vics" in St, Petersburg, FL.

St. Pete is now sadly lacking in Polynesian-theme restaurants, but visitors might
try "The Green Iguana" on Bay Pines Boulevard. It's not the "Mai-Kai," but then what is!


I found lot's of great info on this location. First off, for more info on the hotel during it's pre Trader Vic days, please see the other thread I started:


Now, this Trader Vic's only lasted about 4 years. They opened in January 1972, and closed by May 1976. By January 1977, the restaurant was called Parker's Landing, and was completely redecorated in a nautical theme.

Here's a good article about it from the St. Petersburg Times, Dec. 21 1971:

Trader Vic's Says Suncoast Aloha

How do you change a restaurant into a nationally known, big operation with all kinds of unusual foods and exotic drinks? It doesn't happen overnight. At the Sheraton Bel Air Motor Hotel, 34th Street S., activity has been buzzing for a number of weeks. The hotel, formerly the Sheraton Outrigger, will feature a new Trader Vic's dining room and cocktail lounge when it reopens after Jan. 1. Key men from the big chain's other operations form an almost international team as they work side by side for the big day.

Chaney Wong, executive vice president of Trader Vic's said the restaurant won't be open to the public until the middle of January. Trader Vic himself - Victor J. Bergeron arrives shortly after the first of the year. He'll stay at the hotel for several weeks. Until then the action will move fast inside the Polynesian style building with the huge wooden Tiki gods out front. Slip inside the building for a quick tour with Clive Chu, vice president in charge of operations for Bel Air.

"We're dividing up the big dining room into small areas," he says. "Things seem more intimate that way. If guests have their own group, this arrangement will make it seem as though they have a private dining room." Trader Vic's Polynesian south Pacific Hawaiian touches will make good use of the Suncoast's bright sunshine, too. The skylights, large windows facing palm trees, sand and blue glimpses of Tampa Bay will offer the diner a feeling of Tahiti. Carved New Guinea planks lining the walls will transport one to the romantic isles.

Diners will be able to order by tempting names like Malagasy Steak (flavored with green peppercorns), morels with the taste of the Fast East (east indian mushrooms), tiny Hawaiian papaya, lichee nuts, kiwis from New Zealand (gooseberries), macadamia nuts also from Hawaii and plates decorated with loquats and kumquats. "If someone wants poi, we'll have that, too," says Wong. "In fact, we'll even have the true taro root from which poi is made - after it is shipped from the San Francisco Trader Vic's."

As in all Trader Vic restaurants, all decor is authentic. Pillars of ornate carvings, overheads lined with bamboo, walls of unusual woods make the visitor reach out to touch. Out in the kitchen - more hustle and bustle. Near one wall stands the big, new Chinese range. Gas burners line the big holes where woks (Chinese fry pans) will be placed to cook Trader Vic style. Polynesian, Chinese, Hawaiian - all these will be part of the blending of flavors and unusual spices used by all 19 of trader Vic's restaurants throughout the United States ( plus two overseas dining spots). "We even have a barbeque oven like those used in China," says Wong during a quick kitchen tour. "The Chinese hang the food up in such an oven. The juices baste the meat along with the sauce that way."

In another corner, the cook presides at a big range, preparing meals for the temporary dining room the hotel is using until the new room is finished. Wong, who travels to all Trader Vic's to oversee operations, brought Jeffrey Yee and Walter Frey to St. Petersburg to help form the basic food service team. Yee is from Vancouver, British columbia. He is general manager of the restaurant, boss man for all food and beverage facilities. Frey will supervise the food service. And there's the head chef, Jules Schouten from Detroit via Amsterdam. Schouten has already settled his family in a new home in St. Petersburg. Another addition to this international staff is Fred Velasco, catering manager from the south of Spain.

Trader Vic's prices are to be the same in St. Petersburg as they are in other restaurants the company owns in this country. A pake Polynesian dinner - appetizers, beef and chicken, chinese peas and rice with fortune cookies and tea - is priced at $6.75 per person when two order. Other items like shrimp, fish, chicken, duck and beef tenderloin range from $5.50 to $6.50.

And, from a Dec. 16 1971 issue of the Evening Independent comes this great photo of the 2 newly arrived tikis for the entrance, along with manager Jeffrey Yee, vice president Chaney Wong and the architect Andre Tchikovani :down:

This article also had some great info. Here are a few excerpts:

"Two huge Tiki gods were being unloaded from the flatbed of a truck and lowered into place by crane at the entrance. Chaney N. Wong, executive vice president of trader vic's restaurants, watched anxiously as the grotesque, hand carved beauties settled into their new homes. They has arrived from San Francisco Wednesday where they had been created by the artist who has done others for the 18 restaurants in the chain."

"In the lobby walls are lined with colorful carvings from New Guinea. In the bar area, the ceiling is hung with huge lenghts of bamboo from Thailand crosslashed with sinnet rope from the Philippines. The rest of the ceilings are covered with niau matting from Tahiti. The bar and the other furnishings will be shades of green, to carry out an authentic tropical theme. There is Philippine rattan covering walls and a woven close matting, called tiger tails, around the glassed skylight over the center of the dining area. Crated Tiki gods from Tahiti are stacked on the dance floor and will serve as posts. wong says they are part of the delay in getting in the exotic furnishings for the restaurant. 'Natives don't care whether they carve or fish. If they feel like fishing, that's what they do.'

There'll be a seating capacity of 225 but the dining areas are broken up in small decks so there is not the feeling of eating in a huge open space. One, that overlooks the bay and boat slip, will be the 'Captian's Cabin' and it is being paneled as a ship's cabin. Major construction is due to be completed in a week and the decorating will begin. Equipment in now on the way in. Ranges and barbeques are built specially to cook Polynesian foods. The dishes are specially designed and feature Menehunes. They are to Hawaiians what leprechauns are to the the Irish. Menehnes are invisible to humans under ordinary circumstances. Wong says they are not mischievous but are helpful, they do good things. The china is a brand new pattern and also will be placed in the other Trader Vic Restaurants.

A Young man, Georgian Andre Tchikovani, moves constantly from one area of construction to another. This is the architect from the San Francisco firm of Chan Rader and Associates. Among the more interesting equipment expected in momentarily are the barrels of drink containers. That is the word Wong uses in connection with the receptacles for the liquid refreshments made famous by Trader Vic. Of course, there are glasses, too, with tiki stems for example. But in addition, there are the ceramic kegs that serve the Rum Kegs for four; the communal bowls for the Kava Bowl; the ornamental bowls for the Scorpions; and the earthen bowls, supported by three Tikis, for the Tiki bowls. The Wahines are still served in the traditional coconut shells - but progress has turned the shells into ceramic. then there are the containers, fashioned in the shape of a skull, for the the hot grog known as Skull and Bones."

Here are a number of ads I found :down:

And then, finally comes the demise:

An April 9, 1976 article reports that the owner of the restaurant states that the Trader Vic's franchise may be dropped. An earlier report stated that it would be closed in May, but they they said it could go either way right now. The reason for closing - the owner wanted to provide more restaurant space from conventional food with lower prices and more informality. By January 1977, the space had already under gone a complete renovation and turned into Parker's Landing, a nautical themed seafood restaurant. A review of Parker's states that not much of the Polynesian theme remained, except for the divided up spaces, and everything was decorated with whaling and sailing ship items. She states that the new nautical decorations were so interesting that it made you want to walk around and look at them, and the food got a pretty bad review...

Lastly, this August 1976 article just made me laugh:

"St. Petersburg burglary detective William B. Carroll Jr. was dismissed late yesterday after allegedly concealing a stolen antique statue in his house for the past seven months. The carved, 5 foot wooden statue of a drummer was reported stolen last December by Trader Vic's Restaurant at 6800 34th St. S. Carroll was on the force three years."

Great stuff! Here is an old post of mine about the carver of those Tikis:


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