In 2015, David left his corporate job after serving as a vice president in the food and beverage industry for over 25 years.
His full intent was to retire and to enjoy a simpler life by focusing on the growth of his newly started business, ZaZoo’d, a décor and design store. He planned on working on a few projects to keep busy but discovered that wasn’t so simple.
As you stroll through St. Petersburg, you’ll come across some exceptionally designed spaces full of rich colors that are mixed with unique textiles and lighting that gives inspiration to how old spaces can be transformed, the touch of David’s interior design work. They include The Hollander Hotel, The Avalon Hotel, Zubrick Magic Theater and so many more.
But David wasn’t content with just designing for others. He saw a grander vision at the corner of 24th and Central, where a building stood neglected. He knew that he could transform this space into something St. Petersburg had never experienced. In 2020, he opened The Saint, a sinful true speakeasy created to have its patrons explore the differences between what religion tells us to do and what we actually do in life.
Opening amid a pandemic where masks and space restrictions were in place, sinners flocked to The Saint to confess, leaving their sins hung among the back wall as a means to repent. Not even nine months into opening the space, he decided to make another dream a reality, opening an LGBTQ bar the community could be proud of. He felt the bars were often dark and hidden, speaking to the need for anonymity within the community, but knew times have changed.
David felt passionately that the LGBTQ community needed a place they could be proud of, no longer hiding behind dark glass and closed bar fronts. So, he designed and opened the high energy bar Cocktail, featuring laser lights, drag performances, an open bar front and cheeky design elements.
But above both businesses is the historic 1926 Mari Jean Hotel, another neglected space needing a new life. As construction for Cocktail was completed, David set his sights on the hotel and the addition of a luxury pool bar and day club to accompany a grander vision of an LGBTQ resort.
In Nov. 2022, David opened The Wet Spot, a pool bar featuring live entertainment, cabanas, bottle service and other special events. The hotel is currently on track to open in Spring 2023 with over 50 rooms to serve LGBTQ travelers as they visit Tampa Bay.
Over these past two years, David has remained focused on creating safe and elevated spaces for the LGBTQ community to be their authentic selves without fear of harm or judgment. He’s demonstrated across the city that old spaces can be renewed with the proper touch and attention to detail.
From post-Pride events held in the streets to working behind the bar, David continues to be a pivotal player in St Petersburg. I’ve never witnessed anyone with as much dedication and pride to just “getting things right.”
To view the full list of Watermark’s Remarkable People of 2022, click here.