New Hotel in St Pete Magnifies the Gayness of The Sunshine City

There’s East Coast and West Coast living in Florida but most don’t mix the two. Many have their favorite Gulf Coast sands and their Atlantic Oceanside beaches, while others never visit, “the other shore”. Myself, I moved to Fort Lauderdale on Florida’s East Coast back in 2013, ten years ago last week, but have not been to the gulf side of the state since the 1900s. Yes, it was 1999 when I set foot in Ybor City, Tampa, and Busch Gardens.

But there’s always been a desire to visit St Pete. Hearing only great things about the people, the living, the gay life, I’ve been wanting to visit for some time. COVID delayed some of my plans but now, we’re ready to check it out.

Why is St Pete called Sunshine City? – St. Petersburg holds the Guinness world record for the greatest number of sunny days in a row, so it has been nicknamed The Sunshine City. Topping out at 768 consecutive days of sun is just one of the many reasons St. Pete is a popular boating destination.


St Pete is known as a great gay spot on the Florida West Coast for several reasons.  One is embedded in its history:

In 2003, when Tampa’s Pride Parade was effectively shut down by legislators, the St. Petersburg community picked up the torch. That first “Pride Promenade” has turned into a month-long celebration, featuring activities across the city. And today, St Pete Pride is the biggest Pride celebration in the state of Florida and ranked in the top 40 largest Pride celebrations in the world!

But as the LGBTQIA+ rights movement has grown and evolved over the last two decades, so has St Pete Pride. New board members and volunteers continuously step up to carry the torch forward, ensuring all voices within the LGBTQIA+ community are seen, heard, respected, and celebrated. We have expanded our vision and worked to create an organization that better embodies the diversity of the St. Petersburg community. – St Pete Pride website

I believe the last statistic I heard was that St Pete Pride is one of the 10th largest Prides in the nation.

I myself like to visit a city when it’s celebrating its pride, but I also like to see what the real gay life is outside of pride season, with no pride parades, and how the locals represent every other time of the year. I recently had a conference over in Tampa so I decided to strap on a couple of days to my trip to visit neighboring St Pete to see what the city had to offer.

Where to Stay –


As luck would have it, a new hotel opened up in the heart of gay St Pete. If you have not started following the Mari Jean Hotel on social media, you’re missing out. Their online department does an amazing job of getting you interested in booking, staying, “sleeping”, visiting. After I booked, the excitement was magnified as I viewed its,, and

My corner room for the weekend.

Yes, the internet visuals will blow you away, but when you get there, the hospitality takes it all to the next level. I’m not sure if I have met a more fun, more attentive, and more gay staff at a hotel before.

Mari Jean hotel gallery images

Just watch out for all of the penises in the lobby, on the walls, and on the other guests. The rooms are not large, which is quite understandable as it’s a building from the early 1900s. But the gay whimsy, with a mix of bright colors and black, sexy sayings, hot artwork, comfortable beds, cute bathrooms, it all meshes well to provide a visually (and other) stimulating environment.

As for the hotel and its age and its gay history, head over to for the whole story, but here’s a taste:


Harry Jean moved to St Petersburg in the early 1920’s in seek of a more open and accepting community to showcase his hidden talents. Prior to opening the hotel, Harry would often be seen around town adorned in his late socialite mother’s evening wear. The locals quickly became fond of Mari Jean, Harry’s alter ego. Feeling so comfortable in his new persona, Harry decided his new hotel project should take on his new namesake, Mari Jean!

And why the lime green accent color? Go have a read!

The hotel itself is the second and third floor of a building in the heart of the gay district of St Pete. You might say this building itself is the gay district of St Pete, with some other bars lying around in the area. This one complex has The Mari Jean Hotel, The Wet Spot (large pool and poolside bar with great drinks, dj, and drag), The Cocktail (the award winning night club), and The Saint (a sultry and sinful speakeasy).

Where to Play –

This being my first time in St Pete, I had to make a decision… was I to soak in as much as I could of the city or just try to soak in the gayness? I did take The Sunrunner, a local bus service downtown, but missed it coming back as the bus was running 5 to 10 minutes ahead of the time on the app. The service is scheduled to be free until November-ish

The SunRunner is PSTA’s new Bus Rapid Transit service—the first of its kind in Tampa Bay! The SunRunner connects customers to some of Pinellas County’s most-visited destinations: St. Pete Beach and downtown St. Pete. The Mari Jean is in the 2300 block, near the 22nd St stop

Ubers were easy to get and not that pricey.  Besides that little jaunt downtown on Sunday morning, I decided to spend the rest of the time back at the Mari Jean and the other offerings owners David Fischer and partner Lee were providing.

When we showed up for the weekend around 6 PM on Saturday night, The Wet Spot was hosting a Barbie Movie weekend with Ken and Barbie contests and decorations galore. Missing the parade of Barbie contestants, we were happy to catch the lineup of speedo-wearing Kens. The crowd voted on which Ken would win a two-night stay at the Mari Jean. Minority Ken (he named himself that) was the winner.

Where to Party –

The happening part of St Pete that is not downtown is known as The Grand Central District. It’s where they gays are, too. There were a couple of other places in the GCD I was hoping to check out, but I just ran out of time. The Garage and the Lucky Star Lounge were mentioned as two places I should check out, but will save those for the next visit. Downtown and along much of my walks, the rainbow flags were everywhere.  Unfortunately, they were also on a couple of queer bars that did shut down recently, some say because of COVID, while others mentioned that they just never received the patronage they needed to stay open. Gay bars do come and go in every city.


The main night spots I did go into were The Saint and the Cocktail. The Saint was the first business on this property that David Fischer did open. It’s not technically a gay bar as it is frequent by anyone and everyone that is looking for a great time in a different time. It’s recommended that you make a reservation for this on its website. The experience of gaining access into the speak-easy type bar might involve a couple of more steps, but that’s also explained on the website, making just getting through the door part of the fun of the night. 

Snacks and libations were plentiful, powerful, and pleasing. A unique date night, a drink by yourself, a place to cozy up to your sultry side, The Saint is a place I would love to bring anyone and everyone.

The Cocktail, sexual innuendos aside, it might have been one of the most diverse bars I have visited in forever. The ages, ethnicities, styles, everyone that walked in was just a brand new person. It wasn’t a sea of one skin color and all tank tops and shorts and all of a certain age. I had so much fun just watching all the unique individuals. The dance area was a little small, but you know that everyone was having a great time. And by the looks of this video, Pride last year was a great time at the Cock… tail.


Where to Eat – 

Make a reservation for The Urban Stillhouse when in town. We Uber-ed over from Mari Jean that first night. The ambiance, drinks, food, service, they all added up to make for one of the best nights out I have had in… do I say, years.  Everything was just so great and David (our waiter) made the evening a treat and made it seem like it was his treat to help us navigate the meal from beginning to end, from the spinach and smoked gouda dip to the bomboloni (little sugar doughnuts with tequila lemon curd and nutella sauce). Here are some of the pics of this great space that also served some amazing drinks and epic food.

Will We Return?

There will most definitely be a return to St Pete and soon. The little taste I had for 2 days introduced me to a wonderful and supportive community, great spaces for all to mix, and really pleasant and cheerful people. I met David and Lee, and David and David and a fourth David and so many more great St Pete citizens. It lived up to the reputation that the Florida West Coast is a little slower than its Eastern counterpart, which I sometimes thought was a negative thing, but it actually was refreshing. I won’t wait for a new century to visit again for I know there is so much more to see.

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