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St. Petersburg inspires hip New York shuffleboard club

St. Petersburg has inspired the hippest thing to hit Brooklyn. The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club debuts Monday with 10 courts dedicated to the fabled Florida pastime, featuring cocktails named for St. Pete shuffleboard luminaries.

Royal Palms co-owner Jonathan Schnapp, 41, experienced a revelation two Christmases ago at the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club in Mirror Lake.

"It was magical: Hipsters and jocks and nerds and kids and old people all playing shuffleboard," he remembers. "I thought this would be incredible in Brooklyn."

So what for years has been a punchline to umpteen retirement jokes now will be celebrated in a former die-cutting facility on trendy Union Street. Indoor shuffleboard is just the latest in a series of New York bars where craft cocktails meet nostalgic recreation (bocce ball at Union Hall, skeeball at Full Circle, Susan Sarandon's ping-pong emporia called SPiN, which almost came to St. Pete), but Schnapp and partner Ashley Albert, 40, have come by their latest enthusiasm honestly.

Growing up in Westchester County, Schnapp would visit his grandparents every winter in West Palm's Century Village.

"My parents would drop us off there and we'd spend the week playing shuffleboard. I was supposed to go to Miami two years ago, and I did research and found out the world's largest shuffleboard club was in St. Pete."

Before driving across Alligator Alley, he called the club and Christine Page answered. Not only the president of the St. Petersburg Shuffleboard Club, Christine Page is also a Royal Palms cocktail featuring aged rum, Luxardo cherries, grapefruit juice and lime juice.

"I think I sound absolutely delicious," says Page, who is surprised by the honor but sees herself as more of a bourbon-centric Old Fashioned or Manhattan gal. After Schnapp's St. Pete epiphany, Page became a sounding board to the New Yorkers.

"She was our link to the shuffleboard community," Schnapp says.

After raising money from friends and family, it started to come together: palm tree decor, swimming-pool blue courts in a Benjamin Moore color called Tropicana Cabana and cocktails named after shuffleboard legends like Jim Allen (son of "the King of Shuffleboard," Sam Allen).

The only part that might disconcert longtime St. Pete shufflers is the price. Annual membership at the 90-year-old club in St. Pete is $30 per person, though Friday night shuffles are free. At Royal Palms, court rental for a single evening can run $40, but that's New York real estate.

Time will tell whether Brooklyn hipsters will embrace "sending the biscuit," but one thing Schnapp knows for sure:

"My whole life would be very, very different if I hadn't been to St. Pete."

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293. Times staff writer Jay Cridlin contributed to this report.

St. Petersburg inspires hip New York shuffleboard club 01/21/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 22, 2014 9:13am]
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