After five decades of serving cheap drinks to St. Petersburg, Wilson’s Sports Lounge has closed.
Google lists the business as “permanently closed” and the phone has been disconnected.
“End of an era,” reads the marquee next to the sea foam-colored building.
The smoky dive bar at 3030 Fourth St. N opened in September 1972. Previously the Round Table Restaurant, it was sold to John W. Wilson to become the fifth location of Wilson’s Cocktail Lounge and package store. At the time, the company was the second largest liquor chain in the country, with Wilson’s locations around St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Dunedin.
The Fourth Street N location remained a beloved local watering hole, even as the neighborhood around it changed. It also famously was used as the exterior filming location of “Club Xquisite” in the 2012 male stripper movie “Magic Mike.”
In recent months, the bar faced a number of hurdles. After the property was sold to a development group in October, Wilson’s owner John Turaniczo was required to obtain $1 million in liability insurance coverage. According to public records, he got insurance but the new property owner, BDG 3850 LLC, filed a complaint demanding that Turaniczo increase the amount.
BDG sued Turaniczo on Feb. 16, threatening to evict Wilson’s if the sufficient insurance coverage wasn’t obtained in 30 days. Turaniczo was found to be in default of the lease. Gossip about the bar’s troubles made it to the loyal daytime patrons, who gathered for “last call.”
On April 5, Turaniczo moved to dismiss the default, saying that he suffered two serious strokes that resulted in hospitalization.
“As is the case with most persons suffering from a serious stroke, Mr. Turaniczo’s post-release from hospitalization symptoms have been punctuated with significant memory and thinking issues (i.e., brain fog or cognitive problems) which have prevented him from taking care of even the most basic needs, let alone running his business,” reads the motion filed April 5.
A hearing was scheduled to address the motion. But another issue emerged at the end of April:
“There’s a wall on the west side of the property that’s damaged, and code enforcement found code violations,” said Carlos Yepes, owner of BDG 3850.
Yepes saw the sign outside of Wilson’s for the first time on Wednesday. He said he doesn’t yet have plans for the property, and hasn’t heard from Turaniczo in a while.
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“He’s not communicating,” Yepes said. “We’ll go with the court system and figure out what he wants to do and look at all the options.”
Turaniczo was not available for comment.
Loyal patron Eva Bryce, 68, heard the bar closed last week.
“John T. didn’t order any beer and any liquor,” she said. “Everybody knew what was going on because there was nothing left.”
A single woman, Bryce felt safe going to the bar over the years. The community was warm and the prices were low.
“It’s sad to see St. Pete going this way and losing all its regular businesses, the things St. Pete was built on,” she said.