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Sin will be ‘in’ at The Saint, opening in July

Jaymi Butler

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David Fischer never really planned to open a Catholic church-inspired speakeasy with blood-red walls, naughty angel statues, and fancy chandeliers dripping from the ceiling. It just kind of happened.

And whether it was the result of divine intervention or some other spiritual force, his new bar, The Saint – as in St. Peter, as in St. Petersburg – is scheduled to open in mid to late July in the Grand Central District. The good lord and COVID-19 willing, of course.

David Fischer

David Fischer

The project “fell into my lap,” said Fischer, an interior designer who also owns the home decor store ZaZoo’d on Central Avenue. “I always wanted a bar because I like to have a lot of stuff going on.”

In other words, if idle hands truly are the devil’s plaything, the devil would have better luck finding someone else’s body to occupy. Fischer immediately began looking for inspiration for the side-street space at 49 24th Street N., which was built in 1926 as the Mari-Jean Hotel. The building is also home to Sophia’s Cucina + Enoteca, which opened in 2019.

“I knew I wanted an all-red interior,” Fischer said. “The rest of the design choices started playing out from there.”

Naughty AngelsFischer went online and found Jimmie Martin, a London-based avant-garde furniture and design house, and was instantly drawn to its Naughty Angels statuette collection. He had two “angels” created specifically for The Saint, each sporting designer sunglasses and posing in a decidedly non-angelic way. The ideas continued flowing, eventually solidifying into a juxtaposition between the Catholic church and good old-fashioned cocktails.

“We’ll be turning sinners into saints one drink at a time,” said Fischer, who grew up Catholic. He’s brought his parents to see the space and although they are devoutly religious, they “weren’t offended at all.”

Work on The Saint has been progressing steadily despite COVID-19, Fischer said, adding that because the pandemic forced him to close ZaZoo’d for a few weeks, he’s actually had more time to focus on the bar. To accompany his Naughty Angels, Fischer has commissioned local artists Chad Mize, the Vitale Bros. and Derek Donnelly to create murals, artwork and custom furnishings.

Chad Mize works on his mural (“Saint Peter”) for The Saint.

“Having these businesses support local artists is cool,” said Mize, who created a mural for the speakeasy, called Saint Peter complete with a halo and a sleeve full of St.Pete-inspired tattoos. “It adds so much life to have an original piece of art.”

Once The Saint opens, Fischer envisions the experience of a true speakeasy with a twist. There will be no signage outside, although the tufted red leather door might give anyone passing by a hint. Inside, patrons will be greeted with a menu of craft cocktails, and Fischer plans to enlist a local chef to provide small bites and desserts. There will be a place to take selfies and, eventually, Fischer plans to host classes where people can learn how to make their own craft cocktails. 

The unassuming facade of 49 24th Avenue N., with a tantalizing glimpse of what’s coming. Fischer says he intends to work on the entrance last.

Although there is lots of uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, Fischer is hopeful The Saint will be open for business next month. And he’s looking forward to giving people an experience unlike they’ve had before. 

“It’ll be all about having fun and taking the edge off,” he said.

 

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