Life as we blow it: St. Pete's evolving identity

click to enlarge ANOTHER KIND OF DIVE: The Hollander’s hot new outdoor space. - the hollander via facebook
the hollander via facebook
ANOTHER KIND OF DIVE: The Hollander’s hot new outdoor space.

This past weekend, I was privy to quite a bit of conversation about the news that hip St. Pete boutique hotel The Hollander is opening its gorgeous new pool to the general public.

Non-guests may rent a poolside cabana for up to seven people at $25 per hour, for a minimum of four hours. Which basically means a $100 cover charge for you or your group if you’re not staying at The Hollander.

I heard and read a wide variety of opinions regarding whether or not this constituted a “fair” price. Some think it’s quite reasonable for a group splitting the tab. Others say it’s too steep, considering that many of the people who use the pool will also be spending liberally at the bar.

All of which, of course, is opinion, and nothing more. The Hollander is free to charge whatever it wants for the use of what is inarguably a beautiful and expensive addition to its property, and the market will decide.

What’s true, though, is that this is something of a new model for St. Pete — one characteristic of generally more affluent towns than the ’Burg, like Vegas. And, given that some citizens see the city’s personality more accurately expressed by, say, the Tweed Ride than, say, bottle service at the club, there are going to be people who automatically consider stuff like $100 poolside cabanas to be “not very St. Pete.”

But what does “very St. Pete” even mean anymore? Hollander GM Nick Herring says the definition is evolving.

"St. Pete is changing so fast, and so much," he says.

Herring has a point. We’ve got Sundial. We’ve got more luxury condos going up. (We’ve also got idiots moving into a vibrant, bustling downtown and demanding it be less vibrant and less bustling.) St. Petersburg, particularly downtown, is in flux, and while it would be nice to assume that the community will decide for itself what it wants to be, we all know that once the cash starts flowing, the influence of those without it tends to narrow.

Maybe there's room for everyone's idea of St. Pete. After all, as Herring says, evolution is an integral part of progress:

"Everything grows and changes, we grow and change as people. You don't stay 21 forever ...I think it's only going to get better."

So let's not rail blindly against any sort of change. I would just ask the residents of St. Petersburg, old and new, to remember who made the city’s current cultural renaissance possible, who set the stage in the first place:

Broke-ass folks.

Broke-ass folks talked the bars into hosting live music. Broke-ass folks mortgaged their lives to set up independent businesses in the Central Avenue storefronts that were abandoned when the Rays didn’t bring downtown to life overnight. Broke-ass folks painted the city, and learned to brew beer at home through trial and error, and worked 60-hour weeks at shitty restaurants until they could open their own great ones.

And it’ll be broke-ass folks who leave St. Pete and start again somewhere else if it ever becomes too expensive for them to create their own fun. And what will be "very St. Pete" then? 

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