ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Opening a new business is difficult even in the best of times. Throw in a pandemic and it can be impossible.
Restaurants and bars have been hit the hardest by COVID-19. But David Fischer, the owner of a new speakeasy The Saint, says failure was never an option.
“Speakeasies have had a resurgence in the US again, actually across the world,” Fischer said. “So each city has one or multiple ones and has cool entry processes or ways to get in. Opening a speakeasy was probably one of the easier ways to open a bar during COVID. Because there is an entry process we can restrict who comes in and how many people come in.”
To get in, patrons have to recite the sin of the week and confess. The religion-inspired speakeasy is filled with relics and antiques from Catholic Churches across the country. Fischer also leaned on local artists to help with the unique artwork found throughout the space.
“Anything we had designed for a touchpoint from a guest, so menus, we have a confession card piece that sits on the table made out of wood, we use a local artist to make those, we use three local artists to do the artwork in here,” Fischer said.
Due to the pandemic, the grand opening of The Saint was delayed by several months. It wasn’t until September that the first guests walked through the confessional at the front door. Fischer said it has been a challenge.
“It’s not without worry. Small business is not an easy business to make money in and during these times it’s even more difficult,” Fischer said.
But his focus is balancing operating a business and keeping his staff and customers safe.
“It is an escape from the reality we’ve all felt over the year, but they feel safe, they feel like they are in a space where they can socialize with their group of friends that they are sitting with,” Fischer said. “We have smaller, more intimate seating areas so it restricts the size a group can get and it really works for what we are currently going through, and hopefully about to finish up going through.”
Wait times on the weekends can be anywhere from 1 to 2 hours depending on the crowd. And Fischer said they’ve gotten such a positive response from social media they have people driving in from as far away as Key West and out of state to visit.
“We get people each night that shock us, it’s just a different kind of melting pot of personalities and people that come in here, that’s the great thing,” Fischer said.