Food and beverage pros to lead first #MeetStPete event series

New series highlights local success stories from a different industry each month.

A new event series is inviting St. Petersburg residents to get chummy with their city.

Come #MeetStPete, says Keep Saint Petersburg Local, the brains behind this curated lineup of panels and workshops set to debut for the first time next week. A panel of local food and drink professionals ("food & bev" is September's theme) will spearhead the series kickoff from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, sharing their industry triumphs with guests at the Hideaway Cafe.

In between bigger KSPL events such as Localtopia, there wasn't much outreach, according to KSPL's Olga Bof. This — coupled with feedback from people who said things like "we see our indie business owners as rock stars" or that BurgBorn (another success stories-style event KSPL hosted in June) was pricey and required a full day's commitment — led to the creation of #MeetStPete.

By being more bite-size, affordable and focused on a different industry every month, the series will further KSPL's goal of reaching as many types of crowds as possible. Bof says they want to resonate with the community (especially those who are new to St. Pete), help entrepreneurs and future business owners interact with their peers, and encourage people to stay loyal to local.

Guests will hear from four folks in the biz during the kickoff, which costs between $10 and $15 to attend: Maggie on the Movie owner and Gulf to Bay Food Truck Association president Maggie Loflin; Tony Casoria, owner and partner of The Mandarin Hide and Rock Brothers Brewing; Mother Kombucha founder Tonya Donati; and Stephen Schrutt, who owns the Avenue eat/drink, Kings Street Food Counter and Proper Kitchen & Cocktails. Afterward, a question-and-answer session and "social time" will ensue.

The series will continue later this month with a Sept. 22 event at Bandit Coffee Co., where owners Sarah and Josh Weaver will hold a food porn photography workshop, and Sept. 27's networking social on the FarmTable Kitchen patio.

"We want to celebrate what makes the city amazing, unique," Bof says, "and get people to basically meet St. Pete."

In October, #MeetStPete plans to spotlight creatives and makers, then showcase retail in November.

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