Operator Wiseguy Pizza is planning a dining room in the old Hofbräuhaus building • St Pete Catalyst

Washington, DC-based Wiseguy Pizza operator Nuri Erol has always envisioned building a food hall with unique concepts – a goal he now pursues as he plans to breathe new life into the old restaurant. German Hofbräuhaus.

Erol, which operates four Wiseguy Pizza stores in DC, this week purchased the 17,297-square-foot food court on 4th Street in downtown St. Petersburg in a $ 7.1 million deal. dollars.

However, St. Pete wasn’t even on Erol’s radar at spotting sites, but he describes falling in love with the city at first sight.

“I came to Tampa to see a friend and go on vacation to Miami, but ended up buying a property because I loved the area and then I loved the building,” Erol said. “I saw this beautiful building listed for rent and called the broker the next day. People could come here once and fall in love with it like I did.

Erol, who is an entrepreneur of Turkish origin, has dreamed of creating a food hall concept for the past seven years, filling it with individual food choices and becoming a destination for a community.

“All I know of is the restaurant business,” he said. “I started with nothing myself when I first came to this country. I started Wiseguy restaurants in DC because people couldn’t find good New York style pizza there at the time. I am not here to get rich. I want to have something unique. I am taking a huge risk for my dream.

Erol begins the process of moving from DC to Tampa Bay and contacts the City of St. Pete.

Inside the large building, Erol has their work cut out for them with ceiling and roof repairs, and as the property has a historic designation attached to it, the exterior facade will remain – but Erol said he won’t. would not like to make any changes to the exterior regardless of the designation.

The building also housed the Tramor cafeteria in the past and was used by the Tampa Bay weather as a staff cafeteria and meeting place.

While Erol doesn’t expect the food hall concept to kick off for at least a year, as it has to go through permissions and other steps, he has already made a plan to meticulously select vendors.

Concepts he wants to bring in include a pizza concept that Erol will operate himself, a deli with New York-style hoagies, a San Francisco croissant concept, a New York-based bagel concept, restaurants serving donut ice cream, poke and vegan dishes, and Mexican and Turkish concepts. He would also like to have a cocktail bar that could take advantage of the outdoor patio space.

“I will be looking for the best concepts that are not franchised,” he said. “This will be a really fun project for me – either I fail or I succeed. There is no middle ground.”

He plans to work closely with suppliers as his vision materializes.

Tampa Bay is home to several food hall concepts, including Armature Works, located along the Riverwalk in the Tampa Heights neighborhood, and The Hall on Franklin, a European-inspired food hall in downtown Tampa.

In St. Petersburg, a handful of new food halls are being built. The old Woolworth building at 551 Central Ave. will become the site of the new Central Park St. Pete dining hall which is being developed by the Hi Hospitality Group. It will be completed at the end of 2022.

Tenants will include Italian seafood restaurant Speaks Clam Bar and Asian restaurant Kojo, both owned by Hi Hospitality Group.

Meanwhile, another new food hall concept will open inside Fusion 1560, an apartment building in the Edge neighborhood. In addition, 22nd Street South is expected to have a food hall for aspiring restaurateurs.

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