Emergency measures in the wake of Covid-19:
Governor Ron DeSantis ordered all bars and nightclubs across Florida to close on March 17 for 30 days, and restricted restaurant occupancy to 50 percent so that patrons would be separated by a distance of at least 1.8 metres. Bars that serve food could remain open. On April 18th DeSantis announced that some municipalities could start opening parks and beaches with social distancing.
Outside the cities of Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, restaurants and retail spaces could allow customers to enter as of May 4th, at 25% capacity, so long as people followed social distancing guidelines. Gov. Ron DeSantis' June 3 Phase II reopening permitted bars and pubs outside these counties to reopen on June 5th, with diminished standing-room occupancy, and restaurants could offer outdoor seating if tables were 6 feet apart. However, on June 26th an Emergency Order by the DBPR secretary suspended all on-premises consumption of alcohol at bars statewide, in response to the recent surge in Florida COVID-19 cases.
You don't have to look hard to see that the Tampa Bay area has much to offer the gay traveler. From the beautiful sunrises and romantic sunsets to the tropical weather with the occasional awe-inspiring electrical storm to the ever-changing nightlife, there is always something new to discover.
The Tampa Bay area is made up of two cities on opposite sides of the bay. On one side is Tampa, which has a long and interesting heritage. And across the bay is its sister city of St Petersburg. Not far away are Clearwater and other cities with gay communities, along the coast.
Once a bit down at heel, St Petersburg has enjoyed a real renaissance in the past few years. It's now home to many theaters, art galleries, and museums. Here you'll find the incredible Salvador Dali Museum, now in it's brand new building, housing the largest collection of works by the artist outside of his native Spain. The area also offers several gay-friendly bed & breakfasts and a just-opened gay hotel.
Most gay businesses are located near Central Avenue in what has become known as the Grand Central District. There are plenty of bars on or near this thoroughfare. And historic Kenwood has become St Petersburg gay neighborhood. The housing is primarily bungalows from the 1920's with large front porches (the site of many gay "porch parties").
Both Tampa and St Pete have international airports, which makes for easy access to both sides of the bay. St. Petersburg has St. Petersburg/Clearwater International Airport, but the Tampa airport is larger, often with less expensive flights.
If you plan to drive, you will find easy access to both cities via the interstate highways. There is good public transportation, see Saint-Petersburg.com for an overview, but you're better off driving. The metro trains, trams and buses stop running fairly early, making them unpractical for those interested in exploring gay nightlife.
Tampa Bay's best beaches
It's nearly impossible to think of Florida without imagining palm-fringed beaches. And many of the best happen to be on the gulf coast. In fact, three in the Tampa Bay area are consistently ranked among the country's top ten.
It's no coincidence that one of the country's most beautiful beaches, Fort DeSoto Park, is located at the entrance of Tampa Bay. It's a stunning destination, made up of five interconnected islands. From many vantage points you have fantastic views of the soaring Sunshine Skyway Bridge. You will also find secluded areas that many find alluring.
How to find the gay spots? Upon entering Fort DeSoto Park, just follow the signs to North Beach. Park in the last lot and cross the "rainbow bridge" and wade across the shallow lagoon. Once at the beach, head to your right until you see the gay folks sunning.
Pass-A-Grille is located south of St Pete Beach. Although only a block wide, this island has a long history within the gay community. Decades ago, Pass-A-Grille was one of the first beaches in the area where gay men and lesbians could feel comfortable. Although long closed now, The Lighted Tree was one of the first gay bars in the area. Pass-A-Grille is still a favorite retreat among gays for the laid-back atmosphere and pristine shoreline.
The area also includes numerous other beaches popular with gay people. Sunset Beach, on Treasure Island, is considered by many to be the gay beach, especially at the south end of the beach. Madeira Beach, has a reputation as being "kinda gay, kinda redneck and kinda touristy."
Other beaches of interest include Honeymoon Island and Caladesi Island, just north of St Petersburg. The two state parks, featuring turquoise waters and white sandy beaches, are undeveloped nature refuges that are almost always rated among the top five in national beach rankings. Caladesi is the more secluded of the two, accessible only via ferry. Honeymoon Island's northern tip is also very remote and quite gay friendly. See GayStPete and the Clearwater Beach websites for more beach locations.
You may be surprised to learn that the largest Pride celebration in Florida takes place in St Petersburg. Known as "Pride in Paradise," St Pete throws a party that draws 100,000 participants for the whole Tampa Bay area, at the end of each June. See StPetePride.
The Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival offers some of the best new films by and about gays and lesbians from around the world. There are screenings for the full festival over a 9-day period in early October, and a film series that runs throughout the spring and summer months.
Local resources & media
For covers local LGBT news and information, pick up a print copy of Hot Spots or flip through the website pdf version. Marks List is another local listings resource. The online-only GayStPete and the site of the local Visitors Bureau, Visit St Pete/Clearwater, are useful too.
For upcoming events in the leather/rubber and fetish community see Florida Leather & Fetish Pride -- with their big weekend event in November, plus other dates throughout the year.
Bear Soup Tampa promotes bear brotherhood, with meetings at various area bars, restaurants, theaters and other party places, for 21+ men living in the Tampa Bay area. See upcoming events at their website
St. Peterburg’s LGBTQ+ Welcome Center community space and coffeehouse also has resources information for the area, on-site (2227 Central Ave), and online. St Pete Pride has their office at 2529 Central Avenue St.
For map locations and website links to gay businesses below, and more, see our gay Saint Petersburg listings pages.
Going Out in St Pete
Enigma (1110 Central Ave, Edge District), daily noon-3am gay bar; weekend shows, drag and comedy rotations, DJs,
Flamingo Resort (4601 34th St; 727-321-5000), nightclub at 120-room gay resort, with heated pool, shows, levi/leather and bear nights, T-Dances, erotic male dancers, videos, DJs; poolside restaurant, six bars, themed events.
Lucky Star Lounge (2760 Central Ave), neighborhood bar, back patio seating.
Pom Pom's Teahouse & Sandwicheria (2950 Central Ave), East meets West themed gourmed sandwiches, salads, deserts, loose-leaf teas; breakfast, Saturday/Sunday brunch. Local artists' work on display.
Punky’s Bar & Grill (3063 Central Ave N), mixed restaurant/bar, patio, craft beers, steaks, seafood, pasta, burgers and snacks; drag queen bingo, karaoke, live music, RuPaul on TV, Pride events
Queens Head (2501 Central Ave), affordable contemporary lounge restaurant and pub, patio, diverse European menu, wines and Champagne. Sunday brunch, 11am to 3pm.
CLOSED: Georgie's Alibi (3100 3rd Ave N, Kenwood), gay video/sports bar/ cafe, Sunday brunch, dancing, drag cabaret, games; Hideaway (8302 4th St. N), women's neighborhood bar; Oar House Bar & Liquor Store (4807 22nd Ave S), gay cocktail/ karaoke bar, jukebox, WiFi zone, bingo.
In Clearwater Beach, Hamburger Mary's (28910 US Hwy 19 N) restaurant and bar also features drag shows and bingo with their cocktails, "appeteasers," burgers, salads, sandwiches/wraps and entrees. The Pro Shop Pub (840 Cleveland St), downtown Clearwater, is a long-time gay locals' and karaoke bar.
In Largo, between Clearwater and St Pete, Quench Lounge (13284 66th St, N Largo), gay neighborhood bar features night of go-go boys, drag shows, pool tournaments, trivia games and karaoke.
See our Tampa article for listings and links to businesses across the bridge, on the northeast side of Tampa Bay.
Accommodations, St Pete
The Flamingo Resort (4601 34th St S; 727-321-5000), 120 hotel rooms, 24-hour front desk, oversized heated pool, Hemingway Key West Grille burgers/sandwiches to full entrees, on-site shopping outlets, six bars including a cabaret night club with nightly entertainment, plus a levi/leather bar and cabana bar.
Gay St. Pete House (4505 5th Ave N; 727-365-0544), inexpensive, full-service facilities, large, lavish pool, hot tub with fun late-night action. Poolside rooms with private entrances, bath, DVD players, refrigerators and microwaves.
See more hotels and guesthouses at our map & listings pages.