ST. PETERSBURG — If you’ve driven anywhere near Central Avenue in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District over the past year, you’ve probably passed by the massive, two-story building across from Grand Central Brewhouse.
It’s kind of hard to miss.
Now, two years after signing the lease and following a year of extensive construction, LALA St. Pete, a new karaoke bar and restaurant at 2324 Central Ave., is finally open.
Owner Lucas Herraiz is behind the new venture, which features a full restaurant and bar downstairs, outdoor patio space and a rooftop deck, and multiple private karaoke rooms throughout the building.
Herraiz, who is originally from Paris, moved to St. Petersburg from Miami seven years ago. He hopes LALA St. Pete will act as the prototype for future similar venues in the Tampa Bay area. If all goes well, he’s eyeing Tampa and Sarasota for duplicate concepts.
Here’s everything to know about the ‘burg’s hottest new spot.
Karaoke rooms are themed.
The two-story space features seven private karaoke rooms — three downstairs and four upstairs — each one with different themes, decor and capacity limits.
Rooms include the Speakeasy, with a roaring ‘20s and Prohibition-era theme; Studio LALA, which features a ‘70s vibe and is decorated with vintage photos of Studio 54 and a disco ball; and Rock & Red, a rock and roll-themed room outfitted with concert posters of rock and pop legends like David Bowie, U2 and Prince.
The rooms have strict capacity limits, due to city fire codes. The smallest room accommodates five people (“perfect for dates or double dates,” Herraiz said) and the largest fits 16, which Herraiz imagines will be popular for business events and big birthday parties.
Guests can book two-hour time slots through the bar’s website. Prices for the rooms vary and depend on the day of the week as well as the time of day. For example, a smaller room on a Thursday morning around 11:30 a.m. might go for $80, while the largest room — the Tropical Room — is priced around $384 on a weekend night.
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During peak hours, Herraiz said the pricing roughly comes down to $10 per hour per person.
Rooms are already booking up fast: Within the first week of launching the reservation system, Herraiz said he’s secured more than 100 bookings.
This isn’t your average karaoke playlist.
Herraiz worked with a France-based karaoke app designer to custom design LALA’s iPad karaoke system, which includes a setlist of 46,000 songs. To pick a song, guests can swipe through playlists and various musical genres and categories (everything from bachelorette parties to Mother’s Day) or enter the song they’re searching for.
There are multiple microphones, and a set of knobs lets guests control the volume to their liking. Another feature allows microphone-shy singers to dial up the voice of the original singer on the track, if they’d rather belt out a duet.
Food is served … everywhere.
Karaoke is only half the buzz: LALA’s restaurant will serve brunch, lunch and dinner daily.
Chef Kait Smith, 27, is helming the kitchen and together with Herraiz is in the final stages of designing the menu, described loosely as “upscale American and French Mediterranean” fare. Smith previously worked at Tampa restaurants C-House, Bern’s and Elevage.
Guests have the option of eating in the main dining room, with table seating for 32 and an additional 14 at the bar, or on the outdoor patio, which leads into a shared beer garden space adjacent to Grand Central Brewhouse. Though the businesses are separate, a mutual agreement between the two means guests at the brewery can order food from LALA.
Karaoke room occupants can also order food and drinks to have delivered to their individual rooms. Fittingly, there’s a lot of handheld, snacky finger food on the opening menu, including cheese and charcuterie boards ($29), watermelon and feta skewers ($16), lobster avocado toasts ($24) and bruschetta crostinis ($13).
For larger appetites, a selection of baguette sandwiches includes the Parisian, with salted butter, ham, cornichons and Swiss cheese ($15); the Italian, which features salted butter, sopressata, chorizo, ham, lettuce, tomato, onion and Italian dressing ($18); and the Caprese, topped with pesto, tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and balsamic glaze ($17). There are also several salads and, for dessert, a salty caramel cheesecake ($7) and key lime pie ($7).
But there’s no hot food just yet.
Permitting delays have caused some setbacks for the kitchen staff, so for the next couple of weeks, it’s “cold” food only.
Once the regular menu debuts, Herraiz said diners can expect a more formal list of entrees, including plenty of French-leaning fare like steak frites, coq au vin, moules frites and boeuf bourguignon.
There’s a rooftop bar.
Cocktails and a breeze overlooking Central Avenue. Need we say more?
As with most karaoke joints, liquid courage is a big part of the business. The drinks program here features a list of reds, white sparkling wines (including some high-roller Champagne selections) and 10 beers on draught, two of which will feature a rotating selection from Grand Central Brewhouse.
Cocktails include a list of classic quaffs (margaritas, Moscow mules, mojitos) and signature drinks, including the LALA 75, a spin on a French 75 made with Bombay Sapphire gin, Creme de Fleur, lavender, lemon juice and sparkling wine.
LALA St. Pete is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.
2324 Central Ave., St. Petersburg. 727-329-9455. lalastpete.com.