Marco Franca

When Marco Franca opens Posto 9 Gastropub overlooking Munn Park, he’ll bring something new to Lakeland besides Brazilian cuisine: a no-tipping policy. 

Tipping won’t be necessary because the restaurant will pay all employees — Franca estimates 65 full-time positions — “competitive salaries” and offer a benefits package, he told Lakeland’s Community Development Authority Advisory Board on Thursday.

“Our menu prices may be higher, if compared to a competitor’s menu. Nevertheless, the final tab will be quite competitive,” Franca told lkldnow today.

“If a client insists on leaving a tip, all proceeds will be donated to charities with a focus on education and arts,” he added. “Once we have the full team, they will vote on which charities in Lakeland will receive the proceeds.”

Franca addressed the CRA board Thursday in support of his effort to secure tax increment financing, which helps subsidize projects that improve redevelopment districts through future property tax revenues. His request was approved unanimously and goes to the City Commission for final approval.

From left: Marco Franca; his wife, Grace Franca, Posto 9’s director of people and culture; architect Marlon Lynn and real estate agent Kyle Vreeland. 

Franca announced March 29 that he had purchased the circa 1905 building at 215 E. Main Street with plans to invest $2.6 million to restore it with a restaurant on the first floor, an event space on the second floor and a rooftop lounge.

Some highlights from his presentation Thursday and the document he submitted:

  • The projected annual payroll is $1.4 million.
  • The investors are from both Lakeland and Brazil.
  • Like the Red Lobster chain that started in Lakeland, the goal is to expand across the U.S.
  • Each floor will have a separate kitchen.
  • Each floor will be named after a different part of Rio de Janeiro with appropriate design. For example, the rooftop area, named for Ipanema beach, includes beach kiosks and a sidewalk that looks like sand. “We want you to feel like you’ve been to Rio.”
  • The original 1905 look of the exterior will be restored. Existing windows, doors and other features will be reconditioned and reused.
  • The owners plan to bring in other local food entrepreneurs. (Franca told lkldnow last month he plans to use coffee and pastries from Lakeland’s Drica’s Favorites.) “Its like being an extension of Catapult.”
  • The rooftop lounge will serve coffee and sandwiches during the day; in the evening, food and alcohol will be served until 2 a.m. “Food and alcohol go together,” Franca said, adding that he doesn’t believe in serving alcohol by itself.
  • “Indications are that this project may serve as the catalyst for a new valet parking service to serve downtown during the evening hours.”
  • They’re aiming to open by Dec. 1.

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips:


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. This is so great, its not just the idea, but how you make it happen. Congratulations!!

Leave a comment

Your Thoughts On This? (Comments are moderated; first and last name are required.)