Take a casual stroll along some corridors of the Sunshine City on any given Sunday and it's clear that residents here enjoy Sunday brunch offerings. The Vinoy, Parkshore Grille and Red Mesa Cantina are just a few of the popular spots that are usually teeming with patrons.
Well, move over, a larger downtown venue is setting a plate at the table for the brunch munch.
Jannus Live, at 16 Second St. N, is offering an all-you-can-eat buffet that also allows patrons to praise as they graze.
Known more as an outdoor entertainment venue, owner Jeff Knight and partner Lou Mann came up with the idea and approached the Rev. Manuel Sykes, pastor of Bethel Community Baptist Church and president of the St. Petersburg chapter of the NAACP.
Doors will open at 10 a.m. with a buffet and music. There will be a service from 11:30 to noon; followed by music from the choir from noon to 1:15 p.m. Cost is $21.95 for adults, $11.95 for children 4 to 12 and $40 for the VIP suites that include a carving station. Children 3 and younger eat free.
The new gospel brunch concept launches next Sunday with Sykes and Bethel's choir taking the stage. Sykes said he plans to encourage his congregation to attend and doesn't seem to be worried about the prospect of the event conflicting with church services.
"To me, the best way to generate enthusiasm is to encourage the congregations to attend. Besides, some churches have multiple services, so there should be no conflict."
Eleven churches are lined up to participate. Part of the proceeds will benefit participating churches to help with new uniforms and sound equipment.
Seven gospel brunches are planned, to be held the second and fourth Sundays in May, June and July. There will be seating for 300.
Food will be provided by the Kitchen, a restaurant in the Jannus complex.
For organizers, the goal is to create enough buzz to encourage a nontraditional gathering.
"We want to offer a venue for people who don't necessarily fit in a proverbial box," Sykes said.
It should come as no surprise that this event is taking shape at Jannus Live. Mann, a former corporate executive for the House of Blues in Los Angeles, said he wanted to bring that successful concept here.
"We're a live music venue," he said. "It's a great thing to do to bring music and fellowship together."
No other venue offers a gospel brunch, although the concept has been mentioned in the plans to open a Sylvia's restaurant at the Manhattan Casino.
Word about the gospel brunch is generating a buzz around town as Mayor Bill Foster and several council members have expressed interest.
If successful, the brunches could become a permanent fixture at Jannus.
"If I could, I'd do it every week," Mann said. "But it's a question of how many churches and choirs want to be involved with it."
But we took Sykes' guidance and locked in those dates.
Mann said this is Jannus Live's opportunity to give back to the community. "I think that's why Dr. Sykes embraced us," he said.
Ruth Eckerd downtown
The St. Petersburg City Council chose Big3 Entertainment over Ruth Eckerd Hall to run the Mahaffey Theater, but that doesn't mean the Clearwater performing arts center can't do business in the Sunshine City.
A recent ad in the St. Pete Times edition suggests they've formed a partnership with the Palladium to bring their brand to one of the city's smaller, yet popular venues.
Dubbed "Ruth Eckerd Hall on the Road," there are four concerts: three this month and one in June. The lineup includes Brian Culbertson and David Benoit; the R5 "Loud Tour"; Renaissance; and Bob James and David Sanborn.
Downtown is in a fight for entertainment dollars between the two groups. But this isn't the first time they've squared off.
More than a year ago, music promoter Bill Edwards, who runs the city-owned Mahaffey, sued Ruth Eckerd Hall, citing unfair business practices. But a Pinellas-Pasco Circuit judge dismissed the case.
Despite the rift, if Ruth Eckerd Hall is willing to partner with smaller venues like the Palladium for branding purposes, it's a win-win for city residents.
Sandra J. Gadsden can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8874. Follow @StPeteSandi on Twitter.