ST. PETERSBURG — For the first time in the Vinoy's 93-year history you'll be able to enter a Vinoy restaurant directly from the street.
That might not sound like a big deal in a downtown with restaurants every few yards. But it's a selling point for the venerable hotel as it prepares to open Paul's Landing, its newest dining spot, on Feb. 19.
Stairs from Fifth Avenue NE will take diners right to the 220-seat restaurant and bar overlooking the yachts anchored in the Vinoy marina.
"Sometimes there is a perception that hotel restaurants are not open to the public, or people can feel intimidated when they have to go into the hotel" first, said Vibeke Sansone, sales director for the Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club, as it's formally known. "We want to make this a place that the community can enjoy."
On Wednesday, she and other Vinoy executives conducted a media tour of Paul's Landing, part of an ongoing $50-million-plus renovation of the resort. Named after William Paul, a carpenter who helped build a U.S. Navy depot on the site in the 1800s, Paul's is the largest of the Vinoy's five restaurants and "has the best view in the city," proclaimed Mark Heimann, director of restaurant operations.
Patrons who don't mind walking through the hotel first enter an airy bar, open on one side to the pool with its new flamingo- pink lounge chairs. Overhead are several big-screen TVs that customers can watch, or not, while consuming specialty cocktails like "Citrus Neddy" with rum, ginger beer, mint and lime juice, and "Shiplap" with bourbon, lemon and blackberry basil syrup.
Glass panels separate the bar from the high-ceilinged main dining area, whose back wall is covered by a mural of what look like giant exploding flowers. The feel there is casual too, with bamboo-look chairs and wood-look tables, a teal-hued banquette and booths along one wall.
"It's fun, casual, whimsical; the colors just pop," said Barbara Readey, the Vinoy's general manager. "It's going to be a hot spot."
From there it's out onto a large terrace with cushioned seating, an unobstructed view of the marina and stairs leading back down to the street. (From inside the hotel, an elevator provides handicapped access to the restaurant.)
The spacious lawn next to Paul's Landing also has been redone and is expected to be the scene of many a wedding. Though the area will be closed off during private functions, it will be open to the public for movie nights featuring classics that evoke the Vinoy's earlier days.
With a relatively small menu dominated by seafood, Paul's replaces Alfresco, which had been the hotel's poolside restaurant. Still in place are the Veranda Cafe, the lobby bar, the Vinoy Club Bar & Grill and Marchand's Bar & Grill.
While Marchand's is likely to remain the favorite for romantic (and expense-account) dinners, Paul's with its funky look and creative cocktails is expected to attract its own fans.
Says Lorin Augeri, who does public relations for the Vinoy: "It's Instagram perfect."
Contact Susan Taylor Martin @firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate