A room at The Mari Jean Hotel. Photo courtesy David Fischer.
ST. PETERSBURG | The Mari Jean Hotel will officially open June 20, welcoming guests to what’s billed as St. Petersburg’s premier, adults-only hotel catering to the gay community.
The space is the latest concept from entrepreneur David Fischer, owner of The Saint speakeasy and LGBTQ+ staples Cocktail and The Wet Spot Pool Bar & Day Club. Each business calls the hotel’s building home, as does a smaller, site-specific version of his design firm and retail shop ZaZoo’d.
The hotel was built in 1926 and purchased in 2018 by Fischer’s frequent collaborator Michael Andoniades, owner of the region’s Avalon and Hollander hotels. After Fischer opened his other businesses in the space, he saw revamping the Mari Jean Hotel as a logical next step.
“We have learned that there is a huge market for gay clientele within the St. Pete area, bigger than we even thought,” he told Watermark last year. “From doing those businesses, we decided we would expand and talk to the building owner … he said ‘go for it.’”
Each of the renovated hotel’s 54 rooms offers a sole bed, primarily a King, with a private restroom that includes a shower. A total of 25 rooms will open June 20 on the building’s second floor, with the remaining rooms on the third floor expected to follow within two months.
The air-conditioned rooms also come with a ceiling fan, hair dryer, HD TV, iron and ironing board, bath products and beach/pool towels. In addition to on-site access to Fischer’s other businesses, other amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi, a continental breakfast and a wine and cheese happy hour. A restaurant is coming soon.
“We’re getting a great response,” Fischer says. “We have reservations coming in every day — clearly people needed something in St. Pete that was upscale, or felt upper scale than what we had to offer, and felt like this was a safe space.”
The hotel’s décor leans into sexual innuendo, an intentional decision that’s worked well for Fischer’s other brands.
“I think it’s the sexual energy mixed with an upscale environment that makes people feel safe and comfortable,” he says. “The appeal is toward the gay male audience, similar to the rest of the brand.
“You can go down a path that is a more straight-friendly approach, where you’re trying to attract a middle crowd, but we decided early on that’s not what we’re trying to do,” he continues. “We want people to know it’s a gay men’s hotel; we took the twist up a bit with the snarkiness and the sexual innuendo so that it wasn’t a gray area as to what kind of property you’re coming to.”
Fischer opted to give the hotel’s history an LGBTQ+ makeover as well. A backstory was crafted around owner Harry Jean who dabbled in drag as its namesake, someone who “could often be seen around the halls and at the front desk in her late mother’s lime green ball gown and best jewels.”
It’s why lime green accents are utilized throughout the space, which also displays erotic male artwork from local artist Brad Welch. His work examines homoerotic stereotypes “in various stages of undress, revealing a vulnerability beneath the hypermasculine façade.”
View photos of the property below, courtesy of Fischer:
While the hotel caters to gay males, Fischer stresses that the concept isn’t designed to exclude anyone. All are welcome at each of his businesses.
“I want the community to be proud of what we offer the LGBTQ population,” he says. “I wanted a place that we could be proud of and say that St. Pete has what other cities don’t. This is my form of giving back; I want people to have a space where they can feel safe and celebrate who they are.”
The Mari Jean Hotel opens June 20 and is located at 2349 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. Rooms begin at $169 with a daily fee of $25 for parking and guests are required to be at least 25 years old. For more information, visit MariJeanHotel.com.