Harvey’s 4th Street Grill: St. Pete Time Capsule Celebrates 40 Years

Without a large or flashing sign, Harvey’s 4th Street Grill might go overlooked by a tourist, but for locals, this cozy restaurant has long been a popular gathering spot for co-workers, friends, and family. Nestled in the corner of an otherwise ordinary shopping center, you know you’ve found it when you see the green awning and pristine landscaping leading to a treasure trove of St. Pete history. This April, the city icon celebrates 40 years of business, so it seems only fitting that we take a walk down memory lane. 

A Family Affair

I learned quickly that you cannot discuss the history of Harvey’s without discussing the patriarch of the family, Dan Harvey Sr. – known as “Daddy Dan” – who was born in St. Pete in 1927, while his family was on vacation from Ohio. St. Pete remained a family travel destination throughout his childhood, and as a St. Pete native at heart, Harvey continued to vacation here with his wife, Harriett, and their three children, Jane, Dan Jr., and Susan. 

In 1962, the Harvey family finally relocated to officially call St. Pete home. Dan and Harriett became active in the community immediately. Dan took a job with Honeywell, while Harriet became one of the first realtors of St. Pete. Harvey’s son, Dan Jr., recalls how much his parents liked to socialize and get involved with the community: “My mom and dad loved to have a good time. They wanted to eat, drink, and be with friends and family. We went to a lot of great restaurants back then, Pepin and Rollande et Pierre were staples.” 

This strong tie to community stuck with Dan Jr., and as he grew up, he found himself in the hospitality business working at several local establishments, including the Edgewater Beach Hotel, The Princess Martha, and Rollande et Pierre. With a background in the restaurant business, Dan Harvey Jr. knew he wanted to open his own place, and as time went on, he found the perfect spot. 

The Harvey family – Carly Mertz, Dan Harvey Jr, Dan Harvey Sr, Michael Meyer, Rosie Meyer, George Stovall (seated on ground), Jane Stovall, Briant Wildes and Joey Wildes.

The plaza in which Harvey’s sits today was once owned by Dan Jr.’s uncle. It was called Coffee Pot Plaza and was constructed in 1953. Dan Jr. recalls, “It was the original shopping center for Pantry Pride and one of, if not the, original shopping centers in St. Pete.” Dan Jr. was able to open his restaurant here, with an unusually large kitchen space or “back of house.” Dan Jr. had the space, now he wanted to make it worthy of his vision, which was to represent the age of the building – to make it feel like it had been around forever, and in doing so offer visitors a step back into St. Petersburg history. 

With the help of his family, Dan Jr. did just that. He recalls, “My mother, sisters, aunt, uncle, brothers-in-law – everyone was so active in making this restaurant, but the guiding force through all of these years was and is Dad really keeping an eye on everybody and being the solid steady man, always here.” Dan Jr. refers to his father as a “bookkeeper extraordinaire,” adding that “at 96 years old now, his mind is sharper than mine. Dad is and always has been steady with everyone and everything. If it wasn’t for him, I just don’t know where we would be.” 

Dan Harvey Sr. sits on a bench in front of the restaurant.

When Dan Harvey Sr. retired 40 years ago, he immediately took up shop at Harvey’s grill, helping in every way imaginable. You can still find him working in a small office in the back, manually inputting daily sales numbers into a ledger. He often keeps the door open so that he can continue to keep an eye on everything and everyone. 

So it was, with the full support and help of his family, that Dan Jr. opened Harvey’s 4th Street Grill on April 1, 1984.

A Place in Time

While locals love the menu, Harvey’s is also essentially a museum, chock full of area history. The front and back doors of the building are from the Sunshine School, which opened in Pass-a-grille in 1926. When that building was demolished in February of 1984, Dan Jr. found a way to keep a bit of it alive by restoring the doors that once hung at the school. He says that he scraped away layer upon layer of paint to get down to the original Florida Cypress wood. He also managed to get chalkboards and even some pine flooring from the school, which can be seen at the restaurant. 

Dan Jr. and family friend Dave Jenkins tearing up the Vinoy ballroom flooring to salvage in the restaurant.

When you enter, your eyes are immediately drawn to the giant, raised bar at the center of the dining room. This is no accident; Harvey says that his idea was for the bar to be the feature of the restaurant. “It is the linchpin of Harvey’s, and the red rail makes it stand out. The rail is an original from Disston Junior High.” As you walk to the bar, don’t forget to look down at the restored maple flooring taken from the ballroom of the Vinoy Hotel. Harvey recalls, “I pulled these floors up myself. They were going to throw the floors away because of water damage, but I was able to save them and use them here.” 

Heading to the back of the restaurant you’ll cross some of the building’s original tile from 40 years ago. Then you enter the sundeck, with its beautiful, wood-plank ceiling patterned by stamping and salvaged from the historic Soreno Hotel. Dan Jr.’s niece and restaurant manager, Rosie Meyer, recalls the day she helped her uncle with these wood planks: “I was 12 years old and it was the dead of summer and hot. We were in a warehouse piecing the wood together that makes up the ceiling of the sundeck. I was complaining and Dan told me, ‘Nope, this is going in the restaurant, and we are going to finish this.’ So, we matched boards in order to line up the stamps on the wood. It was like a puzzle, but it turned out great.” The hotel, which was demolished on January 25, 1992, quite literally went out with a bang when it was blown up for Lethal Weapon 3

The iconic St. Pete restaurant celebrates four decades of community and love of local history.
Wood planks of the sundeck ceiling saved from the Soreno Hotel.

Harvey’s eccentric and plentiful décor covers almost every inch of wall space with many nods to St. Pete and a place in time that no longer exists. Dan Jr. looks around his restaurant and says, “We’ve collected almost every picture and item hung on these walls from around the city. We even have glass blocks and an office door from Webb’s City,” the popular local drug store opened in 1925 by James Earl “Doc” Webb. 

Dan Jr. feels like he did justice to his vision of the restaurant. “The concept fits the neighborhood. It fits the history of our city. You come in here and it’s like a favorite flannel shirt you have had forever. It’s what you know and it’s comfortable. It’s a place to come to hang out and celebrate and recognize things from the past.”

Dan Harvey Jr. and contractor working on the restaurant in 1984.

Howlin’ at the Moon

The phrase “full moon party” is synonymous with the history of Harvey’s. Every month around the full moon the restaurant throws a party that always includes music, live Maine lobster, and drink specials. How did this come about? Dan Jr. says “we have never missed out on the opportunity to have a party!” 

About six weeks after the 1984 opening, Dan Jr. decided he wanted to throw a party to thank everyone. He got a keg and served a lobster dinner with live music in the background. It was a night of gratitude and more importantly, fun. Dan Jr. recalls, “If people wanted to scream and yell, well it’s a full moon party and they can do whatever they want!” The next day, Harvey’s went back to being a cozy little restaurant, but the community loved it and wanted more. Harvey’s made it a monthly party, and everyone kept showing up. Dan Jr. reminisces: “Our customers had so much fun. There would be a line down to the grocery store doors. Today, well, it’s not quite like it used to be, but 500 moons later and we are still having them. Full moon parties are an original.” 

The Harvey’s Community

While the success of Harvey’s ultimately goes back to the Harvey family and their commitment to Dan Jr.’s vision, they all point to the staff and the camaraderie that comes from being part of the Harvey’s team. Some of the staff have been there 15 to 25 years, and others since day one. Dan Jr. introduced me to the “new guys,” who laughed and said they had been there three or four years. Dan Jr. says the staff are like family – and staff return the love, using words like family and community, with one member calling Dan Jr. “iconic – he’s a legend.” 

Dan Harvey Jr., right, with Scottie Gross, Harvey’s longest-serving employee.

While talking about the success of Harvey’s, Dan Jr. and Rosie both comment on the St. Pete community. Dan Jr. applauds the neighborhood: “It is the best in the city, and I love seeing everyone in here.” Says Rosie, “We are very fortunate. We are a spot for anyone in St. Pete, and we have a great, loyal customer base. We are nothing without our community. The impact they have on us is so special.” 

Dan Jr. describes his restaurant as “a place in the neighborhood that you can come to talk to everybody, say whatever’s on your mind, listen to what other people have to say, and just chat.” It has been that way since April 1, 1984. Harvey’s 4th Street Grill has created a space for friends to meet, family get-togethers, celebrations, work meetings, and of course, a place to party. After 40 years, Dan Harvey Jr. and his family see no end in sight. 

Harvey’s hosts its 40th Anniversary Party on April 5, from 6:30 to 9:30. More at harveys4thstreet.com.