Everybody's bar: Sawgrass Tiki Bar & Tea House hosts grand reopening Saturday

Tarpon Springs' Sawgrass Tiki Bar moved to St. Pete with a longer name and more offerings.

click to enlarge Sawgrass' colorful mural was painted by Sarasota artist Chelsea Curtin, who's friends with Bridges' daughter Ellen Hutton. - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
Sawgrass' colorful mural was painted by Sarasota artist Chelsea Curtin, who's friends with Bridges' daughter Ellen Hutton.

Former Sponge Dock haunt Sawgrass Tiki Bar, which operated in Tarpon Springs for six and a half years, will hold a grand reopening bash in its new downtown St. Pete digs from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday.

The bar moved to the Grand Central District as the longer Sawgrass Tiki Bar & Tea House last month, with a larger something-for-everyone lineup.

After the rent at Sawgrass' old home at 610 Athens St. increased, co-owners and partners Susan Bridges and Charlie Mackert decided to relocate their business. The pair, who live in St. Pete Beach, settled on the 2315 Central Ave. space, across the street from Taco Bus.

Mackert stumbled upon the then-vacant building and its landlord, Bridges said, while walking 3-year-old Roosevelt, the bar's famed (and adorable) Boston terrier.

"The timing was just perfect," she said. "[The space] called to us."

At the dimly lit Sawgrass, where various styles of wood and art are incorporated into the laid-back, beach hut decor, patrons may order an array of sippers.

click to enlarge The reopened joint's St. Pete site is bigger than its original in Tarpon Springs. - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
The reopened joint's St. Pete site is bigger than its original in Tarpon Springs.

The part tiki bar/part teahouse menu appeals to those who enjoy adult beverages — ranging from bottled and draft beers to red sangria to the Sherbateani, a sherbert-based libation — as well as those who abstain.

Alongside live music and giveaways at the reopening celebration, sake and punch-bowl tastings will also be showcased.

"That's what makes us different," Bridges said.

Café con leche and Art of Tea loose-leaf teas, such as masala chai, Moroccan mint and a tasty wellness blend called Happy Tea, are among the bar's alcohol-free drinks in addition to kava, the almost-as-popular-as-bacon beverage that evolved into a Sawgrass offering on its own.

Mackert and Bridges, who discovered kava in Hawaii, didn't intend to carry the calming drink until patrons saw the duo preparing it for themselves at the Tarpon bar. Folks began to request their own pours, so the owners gave 'em what they wanted. The kava selection's served with Belgian sugar, fruit and more.

According to Bridges, she educates patrons on the effects of what they're drinking, including the wellness teas. And since pairing alcoholic drinks with kava especially isn't smart, a simple sign hangs behind the bar: "We do not recommend mixing kava and alcohol."

With more than 30 hookah flavors that taste like they smell, Bridges said, Sawgrass also encourages hanging out on island time sans beverage. There are smoking accessories for sale and complimentary sweets like cookies, too.

"People come to relax and take a break from their lives," she said. "Different people relax with different things."

Although Bridges said she thinks the Cheers culture of bars, "where everyone knows your name," is fading, she described Sawgrass patrons, of all ages, interacting with each other as "really cool." She'd like to hold daytime community events, with "fun ways to balance your life" topics, in the future.

As far as the bar's new neighbors go, "There's a really great vibe down here," Bridges said.

Sawgrass operates from 4 p.m. to midnight Monday and Wednesday; 4 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursday and Friday; 1 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to midnight Sunday.

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