Tampa Bay Times

It’s last call for Ibe­rian Rooster

- BY HE­LEN FREUND Times Food Critic Con­tact He­len Freund at hfre­und@tam­pabay.com or 727-893-8310. Fol­low @He­lenFre­und. She dines unan­nounced and the Times pays all ex­penses. Restaurants · TV Series · Dining Out · Recreation · Theatre & Ballet · Arts · TV · Saint Petersburg · Germany · Burlesque · Rick and Morty

ST. PETERS­BURG — For the last 4½ 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 shut­ter­ing. 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 prepan­demic 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 to fo­cus 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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA