Celebrate the Sunny Side of Pride in St. Pete-Clearwater

St. Pete-Clearwater gives visitors top-rated beaches, a burgeoning arts and cultural scene and a bevy of outdoor activities. But perhaps its most significant offering is a welcoming community that embraces everyone.

The LGBTQ+ hub of Florida’s Gulf Coast, St. Pete is home to St. Pete Pride, the largest Pride celebration in Florida and one of the largest in the nation, hosting over 300,000 attendees last year. David Fischer, a local entrepreneur, was drawn to the area for its small town feel and creative atmosphere: “It has this overtly creative group of individuals that reside here and are encouraged to celebrate their creativity. It’s a community that’s tight-knit and there’s nothing like it in a big city.” 

St. Pete Pier

Fischer’s creativity was certainly sparked. He is the force behind Za’Zood, a retail store and The Saint, a modern-day speakeasy. Then Fischer launched COCKtail, a gay bar that’s been named best bar in all of St. Pete since its opening 3 years ago. And now he’s created a full service resort focused on the LBGTQ+ community. “We opened The Saint first and it did extremely well and then we opened COCKtail and it did extremely well, so we thought why not own all of the businesses in the building. That’s how we came to own Mari Jean Hotel, a resort with 54 hotel rooms, and a pool and day club called The Wet Spot.”

St. Pete’s charm is what makes it so special, and Fischer believes having businesses and establishments owned and operated by locals provides that small town feeling. “It leads to such a better curated experience for the visitor that comes to St. Pete. It’s unique, it’s different. We get those words all the time about St. Pete. You can’t find that in a big city.” Giving back is important to Fischer. He feels community support has aided in his success, “We have the largest PRIDE in all of Florida and one of the largest Pride’s in the US, you have to have the support of the community to do that.” Next on the agenda Fischer wants to welcome people during the most beautiful time of year, “This year we’re going to produce, as a property, a winter PRIDE which St. Pete has never had and work in conjunction with St. Pete Pride and try to have a second Pride in February of 2025.”

The Wet Spot

Everyone is welcome to celebrate, visit and enjoy St. Pete. Fischer says his establishments being an integral part of the bustling downtown has made them a place where all kinds of people unite and gather. “We get a very mixed environment, so, to me, we’re bringing a safe space to not only the gay community, but a space that can be celebrated by our straight allies as well.” Fischer’s vision was to integrate this kind of space into an already established downtown, “I knew it could work. I knew we could bring a unique environment to people in a little more inclusive way and have it be inside the city.” The city has embraced Fischer with open arms and many other small business owners to craft an inclusive, welcoming feeling for residents and visitors. 

Creating this oasis in the middle of downtown St. Pete has been a labor of love for Fischer, who moved to the area after retiring from his corporate career. He wanted to give back to the LGBTQ+ community in a meaningful way, “My vision of a bar was kind of giving back something that I didn’t have to the LGBTQ+ community. In saying, I want a space that’s upscale, that’s built for gay people that celebrates the community and who we are.” Fischer is steadfast in his love for St. Pete and believes there’s truly no other place quite like it. “The cool thing is we have award-winning beaches, museums, it’s a great arts community and it’s extremely accepting. It’s such an accepting environment for gay people to be here and it’s embraced.”

This article has been supplied by Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, a paid advertiser. The editorial staff of Chicago magazine had no role in this post’s preparation.