Editor's note: This article originally appeared in May. The event was rescheduled to October, and dates in the story have been updated to reflect that change.
After turning downtowns into living rooms with his Chillounge events, Rainer Scheer is now exterior decorating on St. Pete Beach.
Scheer's latest experiment in leisure is the Sunset Lounge Experience, an upscale evening of buffet dining on the sands behind TradeWinds Island Resort.
How upscale? Individual tickets are $195, although couples packages ($490) include tickets plus one of 40 reserved day beds on the beach, or one of 16 canopy lounges. The remainder will settle into a central lounge of sofas and armchairs for top-shelf cocktails, a culinary feast and entertainment, intimately illuminated with LED towers and lamps.
Oct. 8's event is limited to 280 diners, and tickets must be purchased by 6 p.m. Oct. 6 to allow food preparation time.
Scheer knows this is a risky endeavor. His last three Chillounge events in Florida were postponed due to bad weather (Sunday is this event's rain date), and the Sunset Lounge Experience price point is higher, with more complicated logistics.
"Eight years ago I flew to Indonesia and took a big risk by buying three semi trucks of furniture," Scheer, 54, said by telephone. "Now Straub Park and Curtis Hixon Park look pretty amazing (on Chillounge nights).
"I realize I'm in the gambling business. ... How can you have three rainouts in a two-month time frame? But I'm hanging in there. I believe in the concept and I'm a hard worker. I have the passion and the vision, so I just go for it."
TradeWinds vice president of marketing Travis Johnson said his resort believes in the concept, and the entrepreneur behind it.
"Obviously he has a proven track record of successful events, although the price point on those events is not what this one is," Johnson said by telephone. "He does have a very rich database, in terms of a VIP clientele that go to those (Chillounge) events.
"Over the course of years with him operating ... there's a lot of demand for his VIP sections; they sell out. Those are always over 100 bucks a ticket, as it is. Obviously the food is good there but it's not to the scale of what we've got planned."
The menu, available at sunsetloungeexperience.com, begins with a mixed seafood ice sculpture and various salads. Entrees include red snapper with papaya salsa, jerk chicken breast with caramelized apple and golden raisin compote, lobster tails, beef tenderloin and sides of roasted potatoes, grilled asparagus and marinated peppers. For dessert, choose among apricot almond tarts, flourless chocolate tortes, tiramisu, cheesecake and more.
"Everything is high end ... top-shelf liquor, all you can eat and drink," Scheer said. "They sit in a nice furniture piece, like you would expect in the Caribbean or in a five-star hotel."
Although staging beach events is nothing new for the TradeWinds staff, usually corporate holiday parties, Scheer's latest flight of leisure is a stretch.
"This is obviously unique, the feel, the chic furniture that's coming out," Johnson said. "It's a totally different atmosphere than the more casual beach events we've done in the past."
Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.