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PARADE OF BARS AND EATS AT PRIDE

Hot weather and 80,000 thirsty people. No one loves the combination more than the bars and restaurants along St. Pete Pride's parade route. If past years are any indication, they'll be packed for Saturday's festivities. Most are opening early in the morning and won't close until the wee hours of Sunday. It'll be standing-room-only pretty much everywhere, with crowds spilling out onto the sidewalks. Here are a few Central Avenue hot spots worth checking out, either for a drink, a bite to eat or just a break from the heat.

Beak's Old Florida: Colorful and kitschy, Beak's is sure to be a crowd pleaser. The 4-year-old bar and restaurant overflows with fake flamingos, Christmas lights and Florida decor. The indoor/outdoor restaurant gets so busy on festival day that it serves just pizza by the slice during the parade and reverts to its regular menu after 4 p.m. 2451 Central Ave.; (727) 321-9100; beaksoldflorida.com.

Detour: A tiki bar outside, two bars inside, a new AC system. What more do you need? It opens at 9 a.m. with full liquor and hot dogs on the grill. Smokers are welcome. 2612 Central Ave.; (727) 327-8204.

Gemini Lounge: Gemini opened days before last year's Pride fest and has worked hard to build a following among gay and straight urban hipsters. It'll have a DJ, drag show and live music by Elysian Sex Drive. Proceeds from vegan and chicken caesar wraps will benefit FORGE (Florida Organization Regarding Gender Equality). Local artwork for sale on the walls makes up for the beer and wine menu. 2315 Central Ave.; (727) 327-8600; myspace.com/gemini_lounge.

Georgie's Alibi: The party starts and ends here. Located across the street from the parade lineup, this popular gay sports bar gets going at 7 a.m. with brunch ($10.95 per person). The bar will have a huge tent set up in the parking lot with swamp coolers, misters and barbecue grills. Expect drag queens and people in costume to show up after the parade. DJ Bill Hallquist will keep the party going until 3 a.m. 3100 Third Ave. N; (727) 321-2112; georgiesalibi.com

Lucky Star Lounge: This neighborhood bar opened two years ago behind Mr. Sun's Liquors, one of St. Petersburg's oldest package stores. Try the drink of the day: Pink Panty Pull Down Punch. 2760 Central Ave.; (727) 327-7359.

The Queens Head: This British bar and restaurant has a huge patio with the best parade viewing on Central. Its cabanas sold out in advance, but there's plenty of space to chill indoors and out. The pub is hosting a Pride Picnic in the parking lot with hay bales and disco music. The menu will include Martina McBride's Chips and Curry Sauce. Co-owner Paul Smith said the country singer loved them at the Taste of Pinellas. 2501 Central Ave.; (727) 498-8584; thequeensheadbar.com.

Somethin' Different: This hip-hop club by night and neighborhood dive bar by day becomes somethin' for everyone on parade day. It opens at 8 a.m. with full liquor, pool tables and dart boards. Look for daytime bartender Becky Word selling her handmade rainbow-colored bead jewelry. 2420 Central Ave.; (727) 322-0070

VFW Post 39:The VFW post with the huge missile out front opens its door to the public during the festival every year. Cmdr. Janice Pettit says it's their way to show support for the gay community and gay members of the military. The post opens at 8 a.m. with coffee, doughnuts, sausage, hot dogs and Jell-O shots, sales of which help veterans and their families. 2599 Central Ave.; (727) 327-8109.

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