Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Bar review: The Landing at Jannus in St. Petersburg

I've spent many evenings in St. Pete's Jannus Live courtyard, enjoying one of the best open-air venues in the Tampa Bay area. It's where I saw my first concert in Florida: Toadies, on the Rubberneck tour sometime in the mid '90s.

Over the years, I've accepted that drink prices at concerts aren't great, with the whole captive-audience thing. After all, you go to concerts for the music, not the drinks — I'm just happy they stock Reef Donkey.

When a new bar attached to Jannus Live opened, I expected more of the same. The Landing at Jannus is almost a rooftop bar — it's a second-story bar that's completely open-air, but there's no building underneath it — and its location at such a heavily trafficked corner makes it a high-visibility spot that seems likely to command a premium for its drink prices.

It turns out that's not the case at all. The drinks are about as cheap as you'll find at any other regular downtown bar, with even premium spirits topping out at $9. I'm talking $3 house wines and $6 calls in an open-air bar right outside the Jannus Live courtyard. Who would have guessed?

While the Landing isn't technically a rooftop bar — it's suspended above the area where the huge fountain used to be — it has a similar ambience. Half-umbrellas shade the two-seaters along the railing, and a U-shaped bar is positioned at the back, decorated with photos of Tony Jannus' flight, after which Jannus Live's original name — Jannus Landing — was taken.

The Landing gives the impression of being nestled in the surrounding trees, like a very ambitious tree house. It's open enough to feel the breeze and to allow for premium downtown people watching, but the tree cover also provides some minimal enclosure.

Live music and DJs are a regular feature at the Landing, of course, which tends to work best when there aren't competing artists in the adjacent courtyard. I was hoping that the Landing would be a good place to at least catch the audio portion of Jannus Live concerts, but that's not the case, unfortunately. If you want to hear a concert at Jannus, you're still going to have to buy a ticket. There was a DJ on the night I visited, but I understand the Landing also hosts dueling piano nights on Fridays, which sounds like a lot of fun.

The drink selection is concise, with a handful of canned beers available, along with a small selection of house wines and a decent list of spirits. There are no draft beers due to the elevated nature of the bar, and no bottles due to the fact that you can't have glass at outdoor bars. If you order a martini and it comes in a plastic cup, you'll know why. Fortunately, I'm told that the Landing is experimenting with some alternative plasticware for wine and cocktails.

Several of the beer options are from local breweries such as Big Storm, 3 Daughters and Pair O' Dice, but the prices do tend to be on the higher side in this category, about $7 a can. That's a bit surprising when you consider that there are a few top-shelf whiskeys available for the same price. I'm always looking for the best deals at each bar I visit, and at the Landing, it's the booze.

Speaking of whiskey, the Landing has one of those little drink stands, where a particular brand is showcased by virtue of having its own custom bottle display. Although I recognize this as marketing, I'm also aware that this tactic works extremely well on me. Jameson has one set up at the Landing to display its standard offering, alongside the Black Barrel and Caskmates varieties. I'm a sucker.

If this trick also works on you but you're not in the mood for a neat whiskey, the Landing makes a green tea shot, which is made from Jameson, peach schnapps, sour and Sprite.

The Landing has taken a unique space and made it as simple and direct as possible. I consider that a strength.

For a place that I expected to be a pricey side act to Jannus Live, the Landing ended up being a nice surprise. It's a fine place to grab some affordable drinks right in the middle of everything while getting some fresh air in the process. Guess where I'll be pregaming before my next Jannus concert?

[email protected]; @WordsWithJG.

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