St. Petersburg – If you are part of the LGBT community in St. Petersburg, you know Georgie’s Alibi and its history. The long island iced teas. The pride parties. The drag shows. Georgie’s is, without a doubt, a staple of the gay community.
It is also for sale.
While the staff at Georgie’s wasn’t available to comment (one anonymous source claimed the property was not for sale at all), Bob Barnum, the real estate agent who is responsible for selling the property (and who’s business is housed at the very same location next door to the bar) was happy to set the record the straight.
“We are making no secret about the bar being for sale,” Barnum said. “We’ve also got the building next door which used to be the old Metro Center that’s available. The bar and restaurant is for sale for $595,000.”
However, the sale of Georgie’s isn’t one based on monetary gain. In fact, it’s based more on pragmatism, according to Barnum.
“I speak with the owner [Ron Gofrank] daily,” Barnum said. “He was one of the original three partners but they all bought each other out. They sold [the] Wilton Manors [location] and Ron bought out the others. Now Ron lives out of town. As an absentee owner, it’s difficult for him. He’s got some health issues. He not old and he’s not dying—but as we get older we can’t do as much so he’s not able to be here. So it’s hard to run a business that far away.”
The sale, Barnum says, is not easy for anyone and it is, without question, an emotional process.
“What I really would like to stress that’s important is that the property doesn’t have a mortgage. There is no debt. All the bills are paid,” he said. “Georgie’s has been a community staple for 14 years. It has supported so many charities. The Grand Central District, Historic Kenwood, the Metro Center. Georgie’s was a major sponsor of Pride when nobody was stepping up.”
Barnum hopes news of the sale won’t harm the business, but he’s already seeing some signs of that.
“You would be surprised. People say ‘Well it’s for sale so I am not going there anymore.’Or, ‘it’s for sale because Ron can’t do it anymore,'” Barnum said. “But he’s got employees that have been there for over 13 years and the entire time it’s been open. It would be easier to just close the building and not worry about it, but Ron is emotionally sick over the fact that he has to take care of those jobs. He has a responsibility to 40 employees. He doesn’t want to put them out of the street. He also feels close to St. Petersburg. He loves this town. ”
Georgie’s is, without a doubt, part and parcel of most of our experiences as LGBT citizens of St. Pete. It is easy to feel betrayed but, according to Barnum, there is no reason to feel that way. In fact, hard work continues to keep the tradition of Georgie’s alive.
“We are reaching out to people who have an affinity for the community,” Barnum said. “We are not marketing to corporate buyers. We are looking for people who will own and operate it and want to be in the area and know what Georgie’s means to the community. The Suncoast Resort took the opportunity to sell to Home Depot and they just walked away [in 2007]. Ron isn’t walking away.
“He is trying to do the best thing for himself, as well as the community. Georgie’s is an institution. He’d like to keep it open and strong.”
Through it all though, Barnum encourages patrons to continue visiting and help Georgie’s through what inevitably will be a difficult transition.
“It’s painful, all the way around,” Barnum said. “But it’s better to be for sale then just be closed.”