An alphabetical list of the best bars and nightclubs, plus a few gay-popular restaurants and cafés, in St. Petersburg, Florida and the surrounding region, from St. Pete Beach and artsy Gulfport up the coast to Clearwater and Dunedin. Arguably the largest and most popular gay destination on Florida's Gulf Coast, the St. Petersburg region has a good mix of gay nightspots. The highest concentration is just west of downtown in the Grand Central District, but there are others in the beach communities and nearby cities of Clearwater and Dunedin.
Head to the northern reaches of the county to the Main Street of charming Dunedin, to find this LGBT-owned dining-bar complex that comprises Kelly's Restaurant, the Chic a Boom Room, and Blur Nightclub (319-325 Main St., 727-736-0206). There's a lot going at this energetic space a short drive from Clearwater and not terribly far from Tampa. Blur is the dance club, which has drag shows, bingo (hosted by the "Traila Parks"), karaoke, and other fun events. Head next door for drinks from the lengthy martini list at the Chic-a-Boom Room, where you'll find a huge selection of cocktails, beer on tap, and wine. Kelly's is the full-service restaurant (open three meals a day), serving creative American fare: ancho-bbq ahi tuna, blue crab cakes, fire-grilled pita, seafood pasta, maple-pecan-glazed Cornish game hen, and more. The crowd varies depending on the night but tends to see a good mix of ages, styles, and orientations.
The enormous gay resort, one of the biggest in the United States, Flamingo (4601 34th St. S, 727-321-5000) is more than just a 120-room hotel. This sprawling complex set around a huge swimming pool has several bars and is a lively and popular place to party for both overnight guests and area locals. There's the Cabana Bar by the pool, a fun video bar, the Code Bar (male strippers and such), and dancing. Sunday T-dances are a favorite time to hang out here. The resort is in southern St. Pete, a 10- to 15-minute drive from downtown and the Grand Central District.
One of the gay nightlife options closest to hip and festive downtown St. Petersburg, Enigma Bar & Lounge (1110 Central Ave., 727-235-0867) is in the increasingly trendy Edge District, right on Central Avenue. Open daily from noon until 3 am, it's a go-to for campy drag shows on Friday nights, dancing to DJs on Saturday evenings, shooting pool most any night, and other good fun during the week. This sleek space has a big-city buzz but a friendly demeanor.
With a popular daily happy hour, the low-key Garage on Central (2729 Central Ave., 727-258-4850) is a good bet for drinks and hobnobbing before heading out to one of the bigger clubs in town.
A good example of one of St. Pete's nightlife quirks - liquor stores with bars attached - Lucky Star Lounge (2760 Central Ave.) is a cozy gay bar in the back of the very retro Mr. Sun booze shop. It's right in the middle of the Grand Central District, and the vibe is of the neighborhood-bar variety.
New owners have taken on the former Beak's and rechristened it Old Key West (2451 Central Ave., 727-623-0969), after a period during which it was known as Butler's Barbecue. This laid-back tavern in the Grand Central District isn't strictly a gay bar by any stretch, but it definitely caters to a mix of folks and is popular for cocktails before hitting some of the gay clubs in the area. The extensive beer selection here is a big draw, and there's live (mostly acoustic) music most nights.
Since the mid-'70s, downtown Clearwater's unassuming Pro Shop Pub (840 Cleveland St., 727-447-4259) has been serving the northern St. Pete area's GLBT community. Situated along busy Cleveland Street, just east of a popular dining-retail district, the pub has a handsome shaded patio, a great happy hour, and a completely laid-back atmosphere.
Set right in the heart of the city's lively Grand Central District, Punky's Bar & Grill (3063 Central Ave., 727-201-4712) is a relatively new fixture in St. Petersburg's gay scene, and it's quickly become one of the top spots in town for dancing, drag cabarets, karaoke, and some quite tasty food. It's already a weekend tradition to stop in during the Punky's Saturday jazz brunches and Sunday "drag diva" brunches, and there's also dining in the evenings on burgers, flatbread pizzas, and more. The crowd is very eclectic - all ages, men and women, mostly gay but plenty of straight friends. It's very easy to feel welcome here.
The gay-owned but mixed-clientele Queens Head Bar ((2501 Central Ave., 727-498-8584), which is set in the heart of the increasingly hip Grand Central District, is well-known as one of the best restaurants in the neighborhood, but it's also a swanky yet very friendly bar with lovely open-air seating area with plush lounge seating. You could easily stop by just for cocktails and socializing - the crowd is eclectic and approachable. But if you're hungry, consider planning a dinner, or Sunday brunch, here. The modern British-inspired fare is well-prepared and reasonably priced, from traditional bangers & mash to roasted-pumpkin risotto with herbed goat cheese and a balsamic reduction.
In the town of Largo, which is just north of St. Petersburg proper and a little southeast of Clearwater, friendly and energetic Quench Lounge (13284 66th St. N, Largo, 727-754-5900) is one of the top spots in the Tampa Bay region for weekend clubbing. You can mix it up here with drag queens, strippers, bears, twinks, pool players, and just about every other kind of LGBTQ reveler you can think of. This spacious club that's also a popular spot for fundraisers and other community events has different fun scheduled each night of the week, including Boyz Boyz Boyz on Fridays featuring a stable of very studly dancers, fabulous Saturday drag shows, and a variety of midweek goings-on.