What did MTV’s ‘Floribama Shore’ do to St. Pete?

And what does it mean for our future? St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg prepare for the spotlight when Season 3 premieres with “more fights, drama, arrests, than ever before.”
The cast of "Floribama Shore." Season 3, which was shot in Pinellas County, premieres Nov. 14.
The cast of "Floribama Shore." Season 3, which was shot in Pinellas County, premieres Nov. 14. [ Courtesy of MTV ]
Published Nov. 13, 2019|Updated Nov. 15, 2019

Floribama Shore’s Nilsa Prowant said she learned an important lesson after being arrested in July, when police say she flashed a crowd from a downtown St. Petersburg balcony before kicking out a car window, all while the cameras rolled.

“I learned ... if you know your debit card info off the top of your head, you can bail yourself out of jail," Prowant said. “Which I did, because I couldn’t get a hold of anybody at the house."

Prowant pleaded not guilty in August. Whatever happened, she said, happened because "I simply did not want to leave the bar,” a statement so purely Floribama Shore, it could almost double as a spiritual philosophy for the MTV reality series that helped popularize the phrase “puke and rally.” For eight weeks this summer, the hard-partying cast of 20-something Southerners were embedded at bars and nightclubs across Pinellas County. Shots. Drama. Taxis.

The resulting Season 3 of Floribama Shore premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. on MTV with two back-to-back, one-hour episodes. An MTV spokeswoman described them as packed with “more fights, drama, arrests, than ever before,” and compared them to “old-school” Jersey Shore, that late-aughts cultural phenomenon that introduced the world to the “guido” and was created by the same producer, SallyAnn Salsano.

Some businesses, such as MacDinton’s in downtown St. Petersburg and the Mad Beach Dive Bar in Madeira Beach, gave the production nearly unlimited access to film there whenever they wanted to stop by as long as they called first.

MacDinton’s, the first bar the cast members visited and threw up outside of (all on a Monday night!), will host a watch party during Thursday’s premiere. Management from Sunpubs, which owns that bar, as well as Caddy’s, Caddy’s on the Beach and 260 First, helped bring the show to Pinellas, taking the production team on a tour of its local nightspots months before producers decided on St. Petersburg.

The scene at a bar when Floribama Shore showed up went like this: The cast would generally arrive with a crew of about a dozen people, including camera operators, directors and security guards. A control room would often be set up in an unused office or empty restaurant dining room. Patrons were asked to sign waivers giving permission for their image to appear on TV. There were rarely any drinks on the house, bar owners said. The cast paid for what they ordered like everyone else.

“They told us no special treatment,” said David Culhane, marketing manager for Sunpubs. “We couldn’t block off a special area for them, or anything. One of the cast members actually forgot her ID and we couldn’t let her in.”

Mad Beach Dive Bar owner Will Veneziano said the production was professional and great to work with, but it was the locals who tended to “get extra aggressive” or “too involved trying to get on TV” when the cast was around.

“They were a little rowdy, but we’re a nightclub at night, we’re rowdy too,” Veneziano said. “They weren’t like, blowing lines off the tables. ... One of the girls maybe fell over a little bit, but it’s not like that’s never happened at a bar. I think the kids get a bad rap. They’re young drunk kids, no worse than any spring breakers, except they’re under a microscope being on TV.”

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ALLIE GOULDING | Times MTV's Floribama Shore films at Five Bucks Drinkery on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 in St. Petersburg. The crew filmed at different locations on Central Avenue.
ALLIE GOULDING | Times MTV's Floribama Shore films at Five Bucks Drinkery on Wednesday, June 19, 2019 in St. Petersburg. The crew filmed at different locations on Central Avenue.

Out of five times filming there, he said, only once was there a problem.

Pinellas County sheriff’s deputies responded to the Mad Beach Dive Bar on July 12 and found one of Floribama Shore’s private security guards pinning a local man to the ground. The guard said the man had repeatedly tried to touch a cast member, then took a swing at another security guard when he was kicked out. The local man said he was just kidding. Another patron’s smartphone video showed a security guard taking the man down with a “karate chop," according to the incident report.

The deputies let everyone go home, though one of the security guards was arrested later that night in St. Pete Beach on a warrant for failure to pay child support.

RELATED: Floribama Shore premiere recap: Congrats on your anger management

Some St. Petersburg bars including the Emerald Bar, Blue Goose, Copper Shaker politely passed on the opportunity when producers asked, though most declined to discuss their reasons.

“We told them no,” said Michael Brinkmann, who manages the Emerald. “The nature of reality shows are drama. We don’t need that nonsense.”

Residents of normally-sleepy Punta Vista Drive in St. Pete Beach saw a lot more action than normal over the summer. That’s where the cast lived in a rented four bedroom, four bath home with a backyard facing the Intracoastal Waterway. Guards stood watch out front all the time, a neighbor said.

Nancy Pappas, 55, lives across the street and spent a lot of time peeking from her window.

“I’d film them now and then,” she said. “It was the most excitement Punta Vista has ever seen.”

A promotional poster for MTV's "Floribama Shore."
A promotional poster for MTV's "Floribama Shore." [ Courtesy of Viacom ]

First, she said, it was a lot of contractors coming and going, making big renovations to the house, delivering generators and industrial ice machines and re-sodding the entire yard. She said the show paid another neighbor to move out for seven weeks so his house could be used for production staff.

"I saw the one kid out there at 3:30 in the morning, screaming he was going to beat someone’s ass. Then the next morning we see him with a cast on. ... I saw the one girl flash. She yelled, “Bye, Aimee, chi-chis out.”

Having your home become the “shore house” can be a moneymaker. The Seaside Heights, N.J. home from Jersey Shore now rents for as much as $3,000 a night, and when it’s not occupied tourists can pay to take a tour and a photo with the famous duck-shaped telephone.

The Floribama Shore house in St. Pete Beach is owned by a New Jersey resident and was purchased for $1.8 million in 2017. The owner said the house is a family vacation home and no one lives there. There are no plans to rent it out to tourists.

The Season 3 "shore house" in St. Pete Beach.
The Season 3 "shore house" in St. Pete Beach. [ Via Google Maps ]

The Floribama Shore house in Panama City Beach known as “Burnt Bottom,” where the show filmed its first two seasons, is available for $566 a night on Airbnb, though the listing doesn’t even hint at any MTV reality fame. Contacted by the Times, the owners asked that the address be kept private, because “the hype of the show filming in (Panama City Beach) is finally dying down.”

The economic impact for Pinellas County during filming has been tallied: 75 local hires, 2,578 room nights booked and $2 million spent locally, according to Visit St. Pete/Clearwater. Craig Munroe of A Slice of New York said he alone delivered more than $4,000 worth of pizzas to the cast and crew during over those seven weeks, which averages to around six pizzas per day.

The question, though, is what the future impact could be on tourism and business after MTV viewers get a look at the Pinellas beaches, attractions and nightlife. Even murkier are questions of cultural impact and how people will perceive the area.

When Floribama Shore premiered, it was the highest rated new series on MTV in years. Its audience grew in Season 2, when it had about a million viewers per episode. But it still might not carry the cultural impact of Jersey Shore, which at its peak and before streaming services had eroded cable audiences, had nearly 9 million people tuning in.

Panama City Beach has been through this before. When the show decided to leave for St. Petersburg, Panama City Beach’s mayor told the Panama City News Herald, “I’m glad they’re gone. I hope they stay gone.”

St. Pete Beach Mayor Al Johnson said he’ll reserve judgment since he hasn’t seen the show yet, but “I’m hopeful, if nothing else, that people will know we exist, that it will put us on the map.”

Dave Trepanier owns Firefly restaurant in Panama City Beach, featured on the show multiple times, and is on the board of directors of the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“Panama City Beach had such a negative reputation because of all the years of wild Spring Break, and we worked hard to get away from that reputation,” Trepanier said. “People were worried Floribama would fan the flame to go back to that whole thing again, but in the end, I think it was kind of overblown.”

The cast of MTV's Floribama Shore watches the St. Pete Pride Parade on Saturday, June 22, 2019 in St. Petersburg. The cast and crew filmed throughout event on Saturday.
ALLIE GOULDING | Times The cast of MTV's Floribama Shore watches the St. Pete Pride Parade on Saturday, June 22, 2019 in St. Petersburg. The cast and crew filmed throughout event on Saturday. [ ALLIE GOULDING | Tampa Bay Times ]

Appearing on the show brought no business to his restaurant, he said, and he doesn’t think the show had much long-term effect on business or culture. But Kevin Simek, owner of Shore Dogs Grill where the cast worked during Season 2, said he is still seeing a huge boost in business. He sells 10 times as many T-shirts as he used to, including some ordered by fans in England and Australia.

“I get people here all the time because of the show,” Simek said. “We’re not talking about trailer trash people. These are urban, middle class, husband and wife working a 40-hour week people. People in their 40s, and sometimes whole families with their 12-year-old who watches with them. ... What’s funny is my own kids are early 20s and they won’t watch it, even though I’m on it."

A petition to cancel the “toxic” show was started in July, spurred by the show moving to Tampa Bay, but fell flat with less than 100 signatures.

Cast member Codi Butts said the locals in St. Petersburg were more welcoming than in Panama City Beach, where “we kind of wore out our welcome after getting kicked out everywhere, Aimee getting arrested, Kirk smacking people, me getting in a fight ... .”

Salsano, the executive producer, said what you see on screen is as real as it gets. “We keep the cameras going 24 hours.”

Candace Rice from "Floribama Shore."
Candace Rice from "Floribama Shore." [ ANDREW ECCLES | Courtesy of Viacom ]

Whether or not the cast lives the Floribama Shore life when the cameras go dark depends who you ask.

“Oh, goodness, no, I’d have no liver left to be able to talk to you,” said cast member Candace Rice. “I’m an old lady ... so for fun I watch TLC shows and make skin care products in my kitchen.”

Codi Butts, on the other hand, said the party continues when he goes home to “podunk” Westminster, South Carolina.

“I’m definitely living that life. I still bartend at my old people’s bar I worked at before the show,” he said. “I’m usually partying it up with the people I work with or hanging out there having a good time. ... Just like this past weekend I got drunk and fell down the steps at the bar I work at."

Nilsa Prowant from "Floribama Shore."
Nilsa Prowant from "Floribama Shore." [ ANDREW ECCLES | Courtesy of Viacom ]

Prowant said watching the show helps her grow and evolve.

“I’m just a lot more humble. That’s why I’m grateful for reality TV, you can take a step back and watch yourself,” she said. “And you’re like, 'Oh, yeah, I probably should not have said that," and ‘I want to change that about myself,’ you know?"