TAMPA (FOX 13) - The owners of an iconic Bayshore Boulevard restaurant in Tampa announced Wednesday the business is closed for good, taking customers and employees by surprise.
The Colonnade Restaurant, which opened in 1935, built up a large and loyal clientele, many of whom didn't know until they arrived for lunch that the business was no longer open.
"It's just an icon," said Andy Andrijeski, a longtime customer. "Every afternoon you come in here and it would be full of retirees and it's food and conversation and it's just a great place and it's gone."
According to the Colonnade's website, the restaurant has been family-owned since Lois Whiteside and her sons, Richard Jr. and Jack, opened it 81 years ago.
In a news release, developers Ascentia Development Group and Batson-Cook Development Company announced they had purchased the property and are currently planning to build luxury condominiums.
"We thank the ownership family of the Colonnade for entrusting us with a property where they served the Tampa community for many generations," Ascentia Principal Jay Tallman said in the release.
"The Whiteside family would like to express our deep gratitude to our staff as well as our loyal customers we have served over the past 80 years," Jack "Smokey" Whiteside and Richard "Dicky" Whiteside said in a statement. "We have been blessed to be part of the city of Tampa and its rich and enduring history."
The sale was reportedly for $6.2 million.
Several employees stopped by the restaurant Wednesday morning after receiving a call from their bosses.
"Didn't see it coming. We had heard rumors, but we had heard rumors for years that this place was shutting down," said Randy Smith, a former manager. "Very upsetting. It's hard. After 18 years, you've devoted your life to a place and you wake up and they pull the rug from under you."
"We have a lot of core people that have worked here for 20, 30 years, 40 years, some people. It's been a family," added Donald Parshall, who worked there for more than two decades. "We knew that it was going to happen eventually."
Customers said it's going to take an adjustment to get used to not having the restaurant around anymore.
"Don't come often, come when we can, always enjoyed it when we did," said Elmer Johnson. "It's bound to happen. The old goes away and the new comes in. With an area like Tampa, we've got to accept the new. It's an icon. I'd hate to see it go, it's Tampa history."