I was chatting with the bartender at a new St. Pete bar, and he informed me that the EDGE — yes, it's capitalized — District had just been recognized by the Florida Main Street program. I had no idea what this was, so I looked it up and found that it's a 30-year-old "technical assistance program" run by the state that helps to preserve and support traditional commercial corridors across Florida.
A look at the list of current Florida Main Street communities reveals many literal main streets (e.g., Melbourne Main Street, Panama City Main Street), as well as two connected commercial districts in St. Petersburg: Grand Central and the EDGE District.
See, the EDGE District — which is actually a pretty tiny stretch, covering the space between First Avenue N and Central, from MLK to 16th Street — is in something of a boom lately, boasting a wealth of new restaurants, bars and shops that make it clear that not all the action is on the lower end of Central.
One of these is the bar where I learned about the EDGE's involvement in the Main Street program: The Edge of 9. The name's maybe a bit on the nose, but it's also accurate — it resides on the edge of the EDGE District itself (MLK and Central).
It's so much on the edge that you could very easily miss it. I remember the place when it was the L Train (a bar with an actual movie theater in it!), and if you didn't know exactly what you were looking for, chances were you couldn't find it. And despite its close proximity to Tropicana Field and the fact that it projects games on a giant screen, many people still don't notice it.
Tucked away behind Anytime Fitness, The Edge of 9 is a basic neighborhood bar, which is actually a bit scarce in downtown St. Pete. There are half a dozen beers on draft, a handful of bottles and cans, a tidy wine list, and a few "mocktails" available, made with wine-based faux spirits. Drink are served on hand-knitted coasters, which is a nice touch.
While the old L Train had a big projection screen in its miniature movie theater, the Edge of 9 has been transformed into a single open room, with its 12-foot HD projection screen on the back wall. If you want a big screen to watch the game on and don't want to deal with huge crowds down the road, then the Edge of 9 deserves a spot in your rotation.
Along with the projection screen comes a big, booming sound system, which may be one reason karaoke nights are so popular. On Friday nights, former L Train owner Laura tends bar, and Normie handles KJ duties, featuring about 20-40 singers a night on the brick wall-backed stage, with lyrics streaming down the giant screen on the adjacent wall. On Saturdays, live music is a regular feature.
The big screen and sound system are where the bells and whistles end, but that's not a bad thing at all. It's the kind of place where you'd go to shoot some pool, sit on the patio and enjoy the weather, or chat with the bartender about various goings-on in the EDGE District (unless that's just me).
Edge of 9 isn't flashy, but it is friendly, and the location is pretty great — if you can find it. Check it out for games on the big screen, popular karaoke and live music on the weekends, or just a nice, honest place to enjoy a drink on one of Florida's up-and-coming Main Streets.