Back in 2011, Stephen Schrutt moved to St. Pete with the dream of opening up his own restaurant. “I felt like the Downtown St. Pete market was growing. It was becoming its own destination in the Bay area and I wanted to be a part of it.”
He eventually decided on a location off of 1st Ave. S, despite the obvious risks. For instance, the space was one block away from the bustling Central Ave. and numerous businesses had been in and out of the block in the years prior, including a coffee shop and an Italian restaurant. However, Schrutt believed in the future of Downtown St. Pete and he believed in his concept.
Two weeks ago, theAvenue Eat+Drink celebrated their five year anniversary. Over 500 people were in attendance. And in a few weeks, Schrutt will debut not one, but two brand new concepts that will sit side-by-side next to theAvenue on 1st Ave. S. What was once a struggling block is now becoming a downtown destination.
Much has been said about Proper: Kitchen & Cocktails, the highly anticipated southern-inspired eatery with a focus on BBQ, which opens next week. Though not many people know about Schrutt’s fourth Downtown St. Pete concept, Park&Rec DTSP.
It all began five months ago. The World of Beer in Downtown St. Pete, which sat next door to Proper, suddenly closed its doors. That opened the door for Schrutt, who quickly decided to lease the 3,100 square-foot property at 100 4th St. S. Here he will debut Park&Rec DTSP, a social gaming bar, slated to open in December. “We kind of seized the opportunity,” says Schrutt. “I’ve always wanted this block to be the next big block of Downtown St. Pete.”
Park&Rec will be a bar for those looking to meet up with friends to watch the game or to play a game. The space will feature a collection of vintage arcade machines that will be scattered throughout the spacious bar. Patrons can enjoy classics such as skee-ball, air hockey, Galaga, Tekken, and Cruis'n Exotica. Additionally, there will be 14 TVs and a large projector wall that’ll show everything from sports to cult classic movies. Also, on nights with live music, a garage door can open to allow those dining on Proper’s patio to enjoy the entertainment as well.
The entertainment won't just be indoors either. An outdoor space with astroturf will be built in front of the bar where a parking lot currently sits. Outdoor games such as cornhole, horseshoes and possibly ping pong will be available. “With theAvenue, Proper, and Park&Rec, we can have the synergy that a whole block should have," says Schrutt. "We are excited about being able to throw block parties."
Park&Rec will also boast a remarkable lineup of drinks concocted by bar manager Richard Thomsen. With 41 draft lines, there will be 20-25 draft beers, 2-4 draft cocktails, sodas, and nitro coffee by Michael Rideout’s Made Coffee Cannery. Non-draft options include 4-6 hand-crafted cocktails and around 12 different canned beers.
Although Park&Rec won’t have its own kitchen, they will be able to utilize the kitchens at Proper and theAvenue to offer a 10 item menu. Look for group-driven fare such as smoked pulled pork nachos, sliders, wings and flatbreads. “I look at it as if we had a food truck here. What would our food truck be? Thats the mentality of our food menu,” says Schrutt.
The interior and exterior of Park&Rec has been designed with grey and blue hues that compliment wood accents and custom wood furniture constructed by Kyle Habershon of Wood and Bar. A mural by local St. Pete artist Nick Kekllas adorns the ceiling above the main bar. Also, a brand new outdoor cement bar was built by Mikey Lambert.
Park&Rec plans on opening during the second week of December, only one week after Proper: Kitchen & Cocktails launches next door. As for operating hours, Schrutt hopes to stay open late every day of the week -- until last call.