Timeline

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First Generation: 1905-1929

1902

Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., a Cuban immigrant, comes to Tampa.

Dec. 17, 1903

Saloon Columbia, forerunner of the Columbia Restaurant opens, in Tampa’s Ybor City on Dec. 17.

1905

Columbia Restaurant is founded by Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., a Cuban immigrant, in Tampa’s Ybor City 

1919

Prohibition begins in Florida, one year before the U.S.

1927

Casimiro Hernandez, Jr. takes over the restaurant. He is the 2nd generation owner/operator.

Second Generation: 1930-1955

1930

Columbia celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. passes away.

December 5, 1933

Prohibition is repealed.

1935

Casimiro Jr. builds the Don Quixote, the first air-conditioned dining room in Tampa, complete with an elevated dance floor.

1937

Casimiro Jr. builds and opens the Patio Dining room.

Resembling a courtyard like the ones found in Andalucía, the south of Spain, it is surrounded by a balcony, with a colorful mosaic-tiled fountain with the "Love and the Dolphin" statue in the middle. The statue is a replica of a sculpture found in the ruins of Pompeii. A retractable glass skylight was installed, giving the room a wonderful bright and sunny look during the day and an enchanted glow at night.

1950

Casimiro Hernandez, Jr. hires his new son-in-law, Cesar Gonzmart, a former concert violinist, who is married to Casimiro's only child, Adela. Adela was a concert pianist trained at the Juilliard School of Music. Cesar and Adela are the 3rd generation owners/operators.

1955

Columbia celebrates its 50th anniversary.

1956

Cesar builds the Siboney Room, a 300-seat showroom designed to showcase the top Latin musical talent of the time.

1959

Columbia Restaurant opens a second location on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota. Today, it’s Sarasota's oldest restaurant.

Third Generation: 1956-1979

1960

Cesar and Adela's two sons, Richard and Casey, begin working at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City. They begin with receiving merchandise in the restaurant and stocking shelves, working their way through all the different cooking stations within the kitchen.

1962

Casimiro Hernandez, Jr. passes away.

October 25, 1968

Representatives of the Columbia and 66 other establishments honored as Best American Restaurants by Holiday magazine dine at the Columbia in Ybor City.

1970

Richard & Casey Gonzmart join the day-to-day management of the Columbia. They are the 4th generation owners/operators.

1970s-2000s

The 5th generation is born: Richard has two children; Lauren & Andrea (1970s). Casey has six children: Cassandra, Casey Jr., and Jessica (1980s) Charlie (1990s) and Christian and Marlena (2000s).

Fourth Generation: 1980-2005

1980

Columbia celebrates its 75th anniversary.

1983

Columbia Restaurant opens a third location in the Historic District of St. Augustine, Florida.

1989

Columbia Restaurant opens a fourth location at Sand Key, on Clearwater Beach, Florida.

1992

Cesar Gonzmart passes away.

1996

Lauren Gonzmart, daughter of Richard and Melanie and the 5th generation family
member, joins the company full-time.

1997

Columbia Restaurant opens a fifth location near Orlando, in Celebration, Florida.

2000

The 6th generation is born: Lauren has four children, twins Michael and Isabella (2001), Maximilian (2006) and Alexander (2008). Andrea has one child, Amelia (2009).

A new, 5,000+ square foot kitchen is built in Ybor City. Florida's most modern, state-of-the-art kitchen is now in the state's oldest restaurant

2001

Andrea Gonzmart, daughter of Richard and Melanie and 5th generation family member, joins the company full-time.

Adela Hernandez Gonzmart passes away.

2004

Chosen "Our Favorite Romantic Restaurant" by the Southern Living Magazine's writers. Only nine restaurants in the Southeast United States were selected, and Columbia Restaurant of Ybor City was the only restaurant chosen in Florida.

The first new dining rooms built at the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City since 1956 are complete: the Andalucía and the Familia de Casimiro. The new kitchen and dining rooms were part of a $6.5 million renovation project preparing the restaurant for its 100th anniversary in 2005. Other completed projects include new state-of-the-art restrooms for men and women, renovation of existing dining rooms, new wine cellars, and a new, energy efficient air conditioning system.

2005

The Gonzmart family and the Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City celebrate the 100th anniversary of the restaurant's founding.

The Columbia Restaurant of Ybor City earns the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) Award of Excellence, an award won every year since. These awards were formerly known as the Holiday magazine awards, also previously won by the Columbia Restaurant. In 1968, the Columbia Restaurant served as host to 66 other restaurants honored by the magazine.

The Columbia Today: 2006-Now

2006

The Columbia Restaurant of Ybor City is named to the Golden Spoon "Hall of Fame" – the industry's highest regional award. This recognition is given to Florida restaurants that are named Golden Spoon winners consecutively over a period of time. The Golden Spoon award recognizes individual achievement and distinctive contributions at an established eatery. Columbia has been named "One of Florida's Top Restaurants" every year since 1967, the year Florida Trend magazine created the award.

2008

Columbia’s Original "1905" Salad® named “One of America’s Top 10 Best Salads” by USA Today.

2009

The Columbia Café opens at the Tampa Bay History Center.

Columbia on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota celebrates its 50th Anniversary.

2010

Named an All-American Icon by Nation’s Restaurant News, one of only fifty restaurants in the U.S. chosen for this honor.

2011

Richard Gonzmart creates two private label wines; "RG" and "Rusty" wines from Argentina.
Rusty Red Blend wine is named after Richard Gonzmart's beloved German Shepherd, and the RG name is based on his initials. A portion of sales profits from the RG wines will benefit University of South Florida Athletics and USF's Latino Scholarship Fund where Gonzmart has established the Columbia Centennial Scholarship to assist financially challenged, but academically excellent first generation students.

The Columbia creates a private label spirits line honoring first and second generation family members of Florida's oldest restaurant. Don Casimiro Classic Silver Rum and Chacho Bourbon Whiskey. Don Casimiro Classic Silver Rum was created to honor Casimiro Hernandez, Sr., the "Don" of the Hernandez-Gonzmart generations who founded the Columbia in 1905. A fun-loving man, Don Casimiro soon became known for his foresight, generosity, kindness to strangers, good food and love of great rum. 1929 ushered the second generation into the business, led by Casimiro, Jr., who carried on the dream and passions of his father. Chacho Bourbon Whiskey was created to honor Evelio "Chacho" Hernandez, the youngest son of Casimiro Hernandez, Sr. Chacho roasted coffee for the family business for more than 55 years. Chacho, which is short for "muchacho" or "the kid," was known for his youthful warm-heartedness and zest for life. But his love of bourbon sometimes surpassed his love of roasting the best coffee in Ybor City. Chacho was legendary for the countless batches of coffee that burned while he was enjoying his whiskey at the Rex bar across the street from the Columbia. The coffee roaster caught the restaurant on fire so often that the family decided it was time to move Chacho and the mill to 21st Street at 7th Avenue and built a firewall to protect the family business.

Richard Gonzmart created Screaming Richard Tequila, an exceptionally smooth and easy drinking tequila named after himself to honor his motto: " Live Life With Passion!"

The label shows Richard running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

2012

The Columbia Restaurant Café opens at Tampa International Airport.

Casey Gonzmart, Jr., son of Casey Gonzmart and 5th generation family member, joins the company full-time.

2013

Columbia St. Augustine celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Saloon Columbia celebrates its 110th anniversary on Dec. 17.

2015

Columbia celebrates its 110th anniversary. The Columbia Ybor City is Florida’s Oldest Restaurant.℠

Columbia is Named One of America’s Most Historic Restaurants by USA Today.