ST. PETERSBURG -- Tourists who visit Beach Drive along the waterfront must often wonder "But where's the beach?"
This weekend, it's inside Cassis American Brasserie. Yes, you read that right. Inside.
The bistro has liberally distributed two tons of sand throughout its restaurant in celebration of Father's Day. Most of the sand is indoors -- along with surfboards, tons of green plants in burlap bags, beach umbrellas, bikes, beach balls, little containers of fish on tables and a large aquarium near the entrance. The only thing missing are the waves. Even the wait staff are dressed in beach attire, including one who sported water wings.
Outdoors is another bar, lifeguard stands, a sand castle sculpture and lots of opportunities to win prizes.
This is the restaurant's third year throwing the Beach Bash. And while it might seem as if it was inspired by the annual Paris-Plages, where a beach is crafted along the banks of the Seine River each summer, it actually had its genesis in Philadelphia.
Jeremy Duclut, executive chef partner, explained that at a restaurant where he formerly worked, they were looking for ways to polish the floors and settled on sand. He brought the concept to Cassis, which is at 170 Beach Drive NE and normally is a quiet, somewhat upscale dining experience.
"It's the end of our busy season," explained general manager Elliot Gunther, who was dressed in a tank top and swimsuit for Friday's lunch service. The restaurant would need a deep cleaning anyway, and this is a fun way to get it done, he said.
So the answer to the question he gets about all that sand -- "How are you going to clean this up?" -- is simple. Sunday night, he and his staff will use shop vacuums, wheelbarrows and snow shovels to de-beach the restaurant. It generally takes far longer than the four to five hours that it takes to set everything up, Duclut said.
But it's worth it, he said. "The staff is happier, and the customers are happier."