St. Petersburg’s nightlife options are about to get a little more fabulous. Bambusa Bar & Grill expects to open in historic Kenwood in late 2017 at 3100 Third Ave. N., the former home of Georgie’s Alibi. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly establishment will resemble the longstanding one in Naples.
Though construction has been a bit delayed due to Hurricane Irma, co-owner Mel Biondi says the process should begin in the next 30 days. Steven Soutner, also a co-owner of the new neighborhood restaurant, worked together with Biondi to open Bambusa's Southwest Florida flagship 13 years ago.
“Steve and I have been doing this for a long time,” Biondi told CL. “The two of us started in food and beverage even before we met. We started in San Diego and we ended up back in Denver, Colorado. Steve’s from PA. We did a couple more restaurants there and a hotel. We learned a thing or two along the way, what’s successful and what’s not.”
According to Biondi, they’d been looking for a site in St. Pete for a while before settling on the Kenwood location, where the Alibi operated until 2015.
“We have looked for quite a time up there. We looked at a lot of things that we weren’t even interested in. There were some things down on Central, but there was no parking. We liked the idea of a free-standing building — we didn’t want to be sandwiched in. We realized how important parking is to establishments,” he said.
The food menu will resemble the original restaurant’s, which spans the gamut from seafood, burgers, pizza and pasta to soup, salads and wraps. Their plan is to bring on some new items and tailor the casual lineup to the area.
Biondi says the nightly entertainment is similar, too. He was tight-lipped with details, as to not reveal too much before opening day (though popular Tampa Bay drag performer and producer Kori Stevens has announced on Facebook that she’s going to be Bambusa’s entertainment director). The Naples location enjoys bingo and karaoke nights, along with weekly drag performances by the Bambusa Babes.
Once construction kicks off, the restaurant will start hiring for new employees.
“We have a solid staff down here. When the establishment opens up in St. Pete it will require more attention from us. We’ll probably split our time,” Biondi said, as both he and Soutner live in Naples. “We have several ex-employees that will be coming back on board with the company. They know what they’re doing. We’ll set them up, and we’ll work with them.”
“Hopefully everything will go smoothly, but you always hit bumps in the road when you open a new restaurant,” he added.
As far as whether or not they’re an “LGBT-only” place, Biondi says Bambusa is rooted in the community, supporting events such as AIDS Walk and Gay Pride, but that it’s ultimately welcoming of everyone.
“We don’t close the doors to anyone,” the co-owner said. “The community knows the establishment belongs to them.”