ST. PETERSBURG — For the last four and a half years, the Iberian Rooster in downtown St. Petersburg has been the place to go for anything but the ordinary.
There were burlesque shows and drag brunches. Drunken Disney singalong and cosplay nights. Open mic comedy shows and karaoke competitions. Afterparties for Fetish Con and plenty of events that catered to kink enthusiasts. There were evenings devoted to opera, reggae, swing and Latin music. And, on one occasion, a tribute show to the television series Rick and Morty.
“Basically if we could come up with something ridiculous that no one else was doing, we’d do it,” owner Russell Andrade said.
But the rooster will let out its final crow next week when it closes on Feb. 27. Andrade cited the pandemic as the primary cause for the shutter. Running a business that hinged on events just wasn’t feasible anymore, he said.
Andrade opened the business inside the historic Kress Building at 475 Central Avenue in Nov. 2016. The concept was whimsical from the start, with a colonial Portuguese fusion theme at the restaurant and over-the-top bar creations including $42 cocktails.
Downstairs, the event space became a go-to for the local burlesque community and soon enough, that portion of the business overshadowed the restaurant, which went through several iterations and concept tweaks through the years.
Most recently, a full renovation to the upstairs space included the new fast-casual Goan restaurant Avo’s Kitchen, which opened last September.
Business at the restaurant had slowed considerably, Andrade said. Coupled with the loss of events, the space could no longer sustain itself.
“In 2019 we held over 400 events,” Andrade said. “We had events every night — sometimes two a night. When you go from doing 400 in one year to doing essentially none it doesn’t work so well.”
The capacity for events in pre-pandemic times was 120 people. The last couple of months the limit was capped at 70 people, but Andrade said he often had complaints from customers who couldn’t get in for a show.
“We had customers literally yell at my staff because they couldn’t be down there,” he said.
As the business slowed, it became difficult to hold on to staff. When the restaurant closes next week, Andrade will lay off his remaining seven employees.
After Andrade announced the space’s impending shutter on social media Thursday evening, longtime regulars jumped into the comment stream to lament the restaurant’s closing, including a couple who met at the Iberian Rooster on their first date, got engaged on the restaurant’s stage and later held their wedding there.
“That kind of broke my heart a little bit,” Andrade said. “It’s just weird saying goodbye to all that. I didn’t expect to get so emotional.”
Andrade, who is also a professional opera singer, said he is planning on focusing on his singing career in the future, and possibly moving to Germany, where he has friends and family.
The Iberian Rooster will be open with limited hours next week. The last day of service is Feb. 27, when the restaurant will host one final drag brunch.