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Making every day the 4th of July on Central

David Krakow

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Glamper will open this summer at 217 Central Ave. Photo: David Krakow.

While the pandemic was raging, restauranter Michael Schwartz hit the proverbial fork in the road.

“During Covid, I was bored,” he remembered. “I didn’t really know where my career was going to go.” It was his third disruption after 9/11 and the financial meltdown of 2008-09.

Schwartz, the CEO and lead designer of Forward Hospitality Group, was spending time in Fort Lauderdale when his broker suggested he go to Tampa for new inspiration. Unimpressed, Schwartz then received a second recommendation, from a bartender: That he check out the scene in downtown St. Petersburg.

A few years later, Schwartz is building a small empire downtown, with two thriving businesses and a third arriving this summer.

Forward’s current offerings are Good Night John Boy and Welcome to the Farm. And next, in time for July 4, there will be a new club on Central Avenue that Schwartz hopes will evoke in food, beverage, music and design its owner’s nostalgia for the holiday.

Glamper, pegged for 217 Central Ave, is due to open just before or around Independence Day. Schwartz said that will depend on receiving approvals and the final design of the three adjoining buildings that were last occupied by Caddy’s On Central, which closed during Covid in 2020.

“We will try to throw the best 4th of July party every day,” Schwartz proclaimed about the new concept. “We’re trying to bring back what the 4th of July felt like: Little cutesy seats. Astroturf. Barbecue food. Fun music that’s all over the place.”

Glamper’s menu will include backyard-friendly favorites with a healthier, organic twist. Schwartz is excited to have enlisted Raheem Sealey, a St. Croix native who has cooked at several Miami restaurants including a barbecue pop-up he started, The Drinking Pig. “He is a crazy, great chef,” Schwartz said about the Cordon Bleu-trained Sealey.

 

Good Night John Boy, on 2nd St. North, has been a hit since its 2023 debut thanks to its 1970s disco dancing ambiance. Like Glamper, it started in Cleveland – Schwartz’s hometown – and has additional locations in Columbus and Chicago.

Welcome To The Farm, on 1st Avenue North, is a live country music bar that also started in Cleveland.

Schwartz said Glamper would have a DJ whose music would cast a wide net, from Saturday Night Fever and Eminem to Bruno Mars and Madonna. That, he says, is the vibe he remembers from the 4th of July picnics of his youth.

Both John Boy and Welcome list their closing times on their websites as “late.” And Schwartz explained that Glamper, similarly, would close “when business dies down.” He plans to offer lunch and dinner Friday-Sunday, dinner only on other days, at least at first.

Schwartz knew little of St. Pete’s most dense nightlife corridor when he arrived. “I didn’t even know what First Friday was,” he said about the monthly event which will provide plenty of revelers outside his newest venture. But his attraction to St. Pete was as simple as a gaze upward. “I look for sky cranes,” he said. “I like to go where things are busy.”

 

 

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    S. Rose Smith-Hayes

    January 19, 2024at8:58 pm

    When we find a place to park, we will visit. Thank you for choosing St. Pete

  2. Avatar

    Molly

    January 15, 2024at4:46 pm

    Thank you for coming to St Petersburg! You are what make this a great place to live

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