St. Pete’s Ringside Cafe is moving in February, but owners are still looking for a new location

And there are only rumors when it comes to Ringside's replacement.

click to enlarge KYLA FIELDS
Kyla Fields
If you’ve ever drunkenly stumbled through downtown St. Petersburg on First Friday or bar-hopped after a concert at Jannus Live, chances are you’ve boogied inside Ringside Cafe. But its days serving stiff drinks out of 16 2nd St. N will soon be a thing of the past, as the popular bar and venue hosts the last show at its current location on Jan. 29.

Last month, Ringside’s staff found out that the lease was not eligible to be renewed, and that another business would soon open out of its current space. “We are doing our best to find another home for Ringside, if anyone has access to a suitable location, feel free to message us,” it wrote on Facebook.
Location Details

Ringside Cafe

16 2nd St. N, St. Petersburg St. Pete

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Laura Wood, a veteran Ringside bartender, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay she had to do some digging to confirm that their lease wasn’t going to be renewed since that was not directly communicated to anyone on the Ringside staff, including its owner Greg Pugh. Wood officially found out that Ringside was being displaced the day before Thanksgiving, and mentioned seeing men come out of limos to scout Ringside before word became official.

For nearly nine years, Ringside has leased from Jeff Knight of Knight Enterprises—the company behind several businesses in downtown St. Pete, including Jannus Live, Pelican Pub, MacDinton’s Irish Pub and Detroit Liquors. Ringside also uses the Knight Enterprises’ liquor license, as do Knight’s other businesses on that block.

Wood said that Jeff Knight has shown the new owners around the space.

“At our eight year anniversary party a few weeks ago, the new owners were in there with tape measures—it was so awkward,” she said with a laugh. Eventually, her and other staff members started to see surveyors take interest in the property, and shortly after that it was clear that Ringside would soon have to leave.

“From what we hear, there’s supposed to be a ‘70s-style disco where Ringside is,” Mitch Gray, the longtime manager of Ringside, told CL. “Then, apparently the same group is also taking over St. Pete’s MacDinton's location, and that's supposedly going to become a Western bar—so we hear.”

None of the rumors can be confirmed, but the juiciest one involved Florida-born pop-country singer Chase Rice, who’s one of the names locals have been floating when it comes to the soon-to-come business at 16 2nd St. N. Rice is best known for co-writing the smash hit “Cruise” and this year’s chart-topping single “Drinkin' Beer. Talkin' God. Amen.”—both performed by Florida Georgia Line. Reps for Rice have responded to an inquiry from CL, but have yet to confirm or deny that he’s involved with any new music venue or bar in downtown St. Pete.

​​“I'm not sure if he's the only player, or if there’s others,” Mitch says about the popular country music singer.

Mitch told CL that by the time Ringside’s doors close in late January, there will hopefully be a new location lined up. “We already have the formula for success, it's just a matter of finding a new spot,” Wood added.

Most of the Ringside staff will hopefully follow the venue to its new, undetermined location elsewhere in St. Petersburg. Wood points out that technically she and the other Ringside staff are employees of Knight Enterprises, so they have the opportunity to be employed at one of his other businesses, whether it’s at Ringside’s big brother Jannus, or another one of his many enterprises.

Gray drew similarities between Ringside’s current search for a new home, and when it was pushed out of its previous location on 4th Ave. N back in 2013.

“It was the same sort of thing at our last location,” he said. “We heard rumors that Trader Joes was coming in, but we didn’t know anything until the residential neighbors received notices about the new parking lot and we started seeing survey flags everywhere.”
For over two decades, Ringside operated out of its location at 2742 4th St. N (what is now the St. Pete’s only Trader Joe’s) before moving to its current downtown St. Pete space—which formerly housed Club Detroit. Longtime patrons of the venue can only hope that 2022’s transition will be as smooth as it was almost 10 years ago.

Both Wood and Gray worked at the original 4th Street location for decades before moving to its current location, and they’ll continue to follow wherever the business heads to next, with faithful Ringside patrons in tow.

Unfortunately, Ringside Cafe is one of the many live music venues in St. Petersburg that has announced its closure and/or relocation over the past year—and surviving multiple COVID lockdowns and restrictions hasn't been easy. In their conversation with CL, Wood and Gray joked about teaming up with John Kelly, owner of the soon-to-close Hideaway to find a new venue together. Tampa Bay music-lovers can dream.
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