St. Petersburg bar Room 901 has closed permanently.
The popular cocktail lounge and wine bar has been mostly closed since March 17, when Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the statewide shutdown of bars and nightclubs, part of the initial effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Owner Peg Wesselink, who opened the bar in August 2016, said she decided not to reopen earlier this month, when it was clear that the financial backlash from COVID-19 coupled with the current ban on on-premise alcohol sales would be too much to overcome for her business. Though her lease isn’t up till February 2021, Wesselink said she has received no rent abatement from her landlord and cannot afford to reopen.
“It’s really hard to know what to do in this situation,” Wesselink said. “They’ve been hard decisions — very hard decisions.”
Bars were allowed to briefly reopen on June 5, but on June 26 owners were informed through a tweet from Halsey Beshears, the secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, that they could no longer serve alcohol on-premise, effectively shutting the majority of them down again. Since then, some bars have reopened by getting food licenses and becoming restaurants, something Wesselink said wouldn’t have worked for her business.
The swanky lounge, in St. Pete’s trendy EDGE district, featured plush couches and armchairs, exposed brick walls and dim, sultry lighting. It was a favorite among downtown bar hoppers and date-night regulars, known for its extensive spirits menu and cozy atmosphere.
Before opening Room 901, Wesselink owned Peg’s Cantina and Brew Pub in Gulfport.
“When I closed my first restaurant I was glad, actually,” Wesselink said. “It was time. This one was premature.”