Everyone knows it's easier to watch race cars go around and around for three days in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg if you have alcohol in your bloodstream. Luckily, the city has a new lineup of bars within walking distance of the track. — Sarah Gerard, Times correspondent
Fuel up on Friday at the new Durty Nelly's with $2 domestics and $3 imports until 7 and $3-$4 drinks the rest of the night. Recently moved from its short-term home on the 600 block of Central, Nelly's is now in the BayWalk Midcore building at 149 First Ave. N, next door to a Starbucks and a parking garage (can it get more perfect?).
Here you can take respite from the sun while picking up the details of the day's races on the seven flat-screen TVs in the newly renovated space. That's not to say, however, that this Irish pub doesn't come with its requisite amount of grunge. Most of the crowd feeding the jukebox will be clad in black shirts and marked with tattoos.
"A lot of the old people still come to Durty Nelly's," says part-owner Steve Smith, who, along with his partner Mike Pestke, spent $10,000 sprucing up their new unit. "We've also had an injection of new people that normally wouldn't travel that far away from the (downtown bar) scene."
If you stay an extra night, check out Nelly's on Monday for $1 PBRs. On Tuesday, it's the "Ink and Drink" special, where a tattoo will get you 25-cent drafts, which include Smithwick's, New Castle, Blue Moon and Boddingtons. Nelly's also has about 25 bottle imports and five or so kinds of cider.
But you're the kind who likes to drive fast, am I right? The Bishop Tavern and Lounge is just a block away at 260 First Ave N. With a recently opened second-story lounge and nightly DJs spinning the latest hip-hop, this is the place to relive bad decisions you made in college and kick butt in beer pong.
With "Thirst Thursdays" (ladies drink free until midnight) and "Funked Fridays," the Bishop is all about consumption. Drafts include Strongbow, Purple Haze, Shock Top and New Castle, along with the standard Natty Light, Bud Select and Yuengling and a full selection of quality liquors.
Expect to see a slightly better-kept crowd here, and expect to see them up close, because you'll rarely find this place not packed. If you're looking for a little escape from the madness, you can duck into one of two "private" rooms, furnished with leather sofas, a pool table and little thru-traffic.
Or if you're dressed to impress, you might want to check out the upstairs Lounge. With two floors, three balconies and VIP tables, the Lounge is slightly classier than the college party downstairs.
Sinful Saturdays at the Bishop mean no cover all night, which is crucial if you plan to continue on to Club Sinn's amateur night, one more block down at 340 First Ave. N, where you're bound to spend all your money on, uh, entertainers.
Technically, they're dancers who strip down to bikinis. On a stage with a stripper pole and mirrors. You get the picture. (Owner Heather Rardin, 35, is the former manager of bikini bar Mermaids in St. Pete Beach.)
You're probably not here to consume high-quality booze, so don't be surprised by the offerings. At least they have $2 shot specials and $2.50 Miller bottles on Saturdays.
If you're not the kind of bar-hopper who wants to see a lot of skin, there's always the option of playing pool in the corner while your friends get lap dances by the heavily curtained front windows. There is also a decent number of bar games and TVs to avert your attention from the lady gyrating next to you.
Walk around the block to Crowley's at 269 Central Ave. for its huge beer menu (listing origin, style and alcohol content) and Irish-American food, then finish your lap at the recently renovated Pelican Pub, 18 Second St. N. It's next door to the also renovated Jannus Landing, now called Jannus Live. Reopened in December, Pelican Pub is part of the much larger project to reawaken the Jannus complex, at First Avenue N and Second Street, spearheaded by new owners Jeff Knight and Bill Edwards.
Stripped of much of its former character, the new Pelican's saving grace seems to be the couple of flat-screen televisions mounted above the bar and its (much-needed) refinishing of the bathrooms.
Otherwise, it's a good place to feel sleepy at the end of an otherwise wild evening while watching boxing and listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Every city needs a bar like this, but keep an eye on your tab because drink prices have been revamped as well. (Premium wells now run you $5.50.)
If you've finished this raucous evening with time to spare, you may want to check out some live music at the recently opened Fubar, 658 Central Ave., across from the old Durty Nelly's. Or, if you liked the Irish pub atmosphere at Crowley's, jig on over to Paddy Burke, just a block southwest at First Avenue S and Fourth Street. Or try having a smoke next door to Crowley's at Central Cigars' new Tap Room, where you can pair a glass of wine with a fine stogie.