David Fischer, who has made a name for himself in St. Pete’s flourishing LGBTQ+ community, is now taking on a new business venture – establishing a gay resort.
Fischer is an entrepreneur known for creating popular gay-centric and friendly destinations such as The Cocktail Bar, The Saint Speakeasy and the ZaZoo’d retail shop, but he is taking his endeavors a step further alongside a business partner to redevelop the Mari Jean Hotel into an adults-only gay resort.
The original Mari Jean Hotel building is a historic property, built in 1926 at 2349 Central Ave. The original owners lived in a home nestled in the hotel’s gardens. In 2013, the house was relocated and became the Metro Inclusive Health LGBTQ Welcome Center.
Fischer explained the concept of converting the hotel into a gay resort came into view by Michael Andoniades, owner of the Hollander, Avalon hotels and the Mari Jean. Fisher has a deep-rooted working relationship with Andoniades, as he worked on the interior design of his hotels.
After purchasing the hotel in 2018 with plans to redevelop it, Andoniades and Fischer started to craft a vision from the bar concept to the design of the hotel rooms.
“We opened The Saint about two years ago, and it’s done really well. We followed that by opening the Cocktail a year ago. When we saw how well the Cocktail Bar was doing and a need for more upscale nightlife for the gay community, it was a no-brainer to make a gay resort and create this bigger destination,” Fischer said.
Previously, St. Petersburg was home to two gay resorts – The Flamingo Resort and The Suncoast. The latter, one of the first establishments in St. Petersburg tailored toward serving the gay community, closed in 2007. The Flamingo Resort was then established in 2009, but it shut its doors in 2019 – creating a void in the market for a large gay resort.
The 54 rooms at the Mari Jean will have a navy blue and neon lime green color scheme along with other contemporary design elements.
“We are going to elaborate on Mari Jean’s history and add elements to its story. In everything I do, I add a bit of humor to it or add a side to it that’s a little racy and fun so the hotel will take on the same vibe,” Fischer said.
Earlier this year, Fischer unveiled plans for The Wet Spot, an outdoor gay pool retreat featuring a large swimming pool, a three-sided bar and a live music cabana. The Wet Spot will be on the same property as the hotel and will be very similar to the Hollander’s pool, as it will have VIP tents and DJs performing.
Fischer said the rooms in the resort, the bar and other amenities will be completed by June in time for the St. Pete Pride festivities; however, the pool will still be under construction and is expected to be completed in July.
A kitchen will be added to service the entire property, as well as a small ZaZoo’d retail store in the hotel that will carry sunscreen, apparel and other items. Fischer’s other businesses, The Cocktail Bar and The Saint Speakeasy, will all be accessible from the hotel.
“Once the whole property comes together, people will know it’s a gay resort. They know about The Cocktail and the whole property will have a similar synergy,” Fischer said. “Having this type of resort has been an untapped niche for a while, and we need to bring it to the next level and create an approachable place to celebrate and feel safe.”