When the Boston Red Sox arrive in St. Petersburg to play the Rays, in a three-game series the last weekend in August, Roger Zeghibe will be ready.
“I think half the city of Boston’s coming down for it,” says the owner of Beantown Pub South, downtown St. Pete’s new Boston-themed bar and restaurant. “It’s going to be a big weekend.”
All his Massachusetts friends, Zeghibe reports, have been calling. “They’re saying ‘Where do we stay? The city’s sold out. There’s no hotel rooms.’”
For 21 years, Zeghibe has operated the Beantown Pub on Boston’s Tremont Street. It’s well-known for its regional dishes, especially the house-made New England Clam Chowder, the Fenway Frank Plates and the Jumbo Lobster Roll – an eight-inch hot dog bun stuffed with coldwater lobster meat.
It’ll all be here – even the New England-sourced lobster – when Beantown South opens for business Monday, Aug. 6. It’s at 29 3rd Street North, in the heart of downtown.
Zeghibe, a Boston native who opened his first bar, the still-operating Hub Pub, in 1990, has never done business outside of New England.
Still, he says, he always believed his Boston-pub concept would work in Florida.
It was his friend Fred Forsley, the owner of Maine-based Sea Dog Brewing, who told him about St. Petersburg (Forsley opened a Sea Dog on Treasure Island in 2017).
“So I started coming down,” Zehibe explains, “and I fell in love with the city. Boston’s all about history, and so is St. Petersburg. There’s a lot of history in this little city. It’s a foodie city. And the people are great – everyone’s been so friendly and inviting to us.”
The location, 1,600 square feet with seating for 50 inside, and approximately 60 out in front, is the former home of Rattle & Hum (and, even earlier, the Cask and Ale).
Beantown, which is set up like a typical New England pub (think Cheers, ayuh) is very much a sports bar, too. Zeghibe’s not worried about the distinct possibility that the Rays will one day leave St. Petersburg – Tampa, after all, is just across the bay.
“We’re big hockey fans,” he says. “I just love the vibe around the Lightning down here. We’ve adopted the Lightning and the Rays. Inside, where you see the Red Sox neon sign, there’s a Rays neon right beside it. Patriots, Bucks right beside it. Bruins, Lightning. So we’re about both cities.”
Zeghibe’s co-general managers, Jami DeLauri and Ryan Carino, have each worked for him (at Hub Pub or Beantown) for several years. Because they believe in Roger Zeghibe, and in the Beantown brand, both longtime Boston residents have relocated to St. Petersburg. Neither of them had set foot here before.
The boss wasn’t particularly surprised when they agreed to the move. “You know what?” he says. “In Boston, the way we run my places, we’re all like family. Everyone watches out for each other, and that’s what we want to bring here. We want the customers to feel like they’re part of the whole setup.
“We’re all about being friendly, and making everybody feel comfortable. That’s why we’ve been so successful in Boston, and that’s what we want to bring here.”