Thursday, May 24, 2018
Bars & Spirits

Club Enigma a cocktail bar and nightclub St. Pete can be proud of

A gay friend recently lamented that he was doomed to be represented by a rainbow for the rest of his life. I suppose it's pretty easy to feel trivialized in a society where sexual orientation is still a source of regular frustration on both extremes — patronization on one end, and intolerance on the other.

But a trip to downtown St. Pete — where rainbow flags hang from lampposts on parts of Central Avenue — made him happy to be living in an area and time where we all have a lot to be proud of. Heck, we have a whole weekend in St. Pete devoted to promoting LGBT equality: St. Pete Pride, a celebration filled with music, parades and other festivities.

The bulk of St. Pete Pride takes place in and around St. Pete's Grand Central and Edge districts, the latter having recently added a new LGBT hotspot called Enigma. Enigma is essentially a gay bar, but to that term tells you about as much about the place as a rainbow does about the personality of a gay friend.

Enigma is the creation of owner Ed Gonzalez, formerly of the immensely popular Georgie's Alibi. With a staff comprised mostly of fellow Georgie's alumni, Gonzalez opened Enigma last month, and judging by the always-crowded sidewalk in front of Enigma, it's a hit.

Enigma is interesting — no, I'm not going to invoke the club's name — in that it seems equally popular in the afternoon and early evening as it is late at night, when it's transformed into full club mode. I think the reason why is twofold: It has an airy openness resulting from the large cutaway opening at the entrance; and the happy hour is really long and really cheap.

On the first part: Enigma's interior is comprised of a few separate areas that have distinct functions but that all kind of blend together into one cohesive environment. There are café tables out front, which extend to the street-side bar seating at the entrance. Inside, there's a game area with blue-felted pool tables, opposite a large, winding bar that seats a couple dozen. It's cool inside, even in full sun, when the interior is bathed in natural light.

In the back resides an auxiliary bar and a DJ loft perched above a modest-sized dance floor. The arrangement is such that a full-on dance party can coexist with a group shooting pool, despite being only a few feet away from each other.

On the second point: The drinks at Enigma are not really nightclub-priced. Even on the weekends, a well drink will cost you $4 and a top-shelf cocktail won't go above $9. But on weekdays, all the way up to 9 p.m., everything — everything — is 2-for-1.

The selection is also relatively solid for a nightclub. There are eight beers on draft, including Cigar City Jai Alai, as well as a few of the bigger craft and crafty brands: Sam Adams Summer Ale, Blue Moon, Magic Hat #9, and Angry Orchard cider. There are only a few house wines. The liquor selection is very vodka-heavy, but gin fans will find a few options to work with here (hello, Hendrick's!), and there are a few good whiskies as well, including single malt scotches like Glenfiddich and small-batch bourbons like Woodford Reserve. If you find yourself drawn to the chilled Fireball whiskey dispensers, try a new twist: mix it in with a glass of Angry Orchard. It's better than you think.

Enigma puts a lot of emphasis on its nightclub gear, which includes cool LED lighting and a high-end sound system. It's a gay bar, but it's also a serious, professional club, which is something the Edge district was previously lacking.

This year's Pride is shaping up to be a big one, and I expect that Enigma is going to be a must-hit spot during the festivities. I think Enigma gives downtown St. Pete something to be proud of, too — another quality destination in an up-and-coming part of town, in the form of a friendly, spruced-up bar and club that's fun to be in, regardless of who you are.

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