St. Pete Diner was a 24-7 neighborhood comfort food mainstay, the place to go if you found yourself with a 3 a.m. craving for Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey, green beans and mashed potatoes. Late-night patrons, including drag queens and their kings from Georgie’s Alibi, would come for food and folly after the bar closed for a menu of diner favorites: cups of homemade soup with saltines, rice pudding in plastic bowls, slices of pie — the classics.
So it pulled on our heartstrings earlier this week to hear that the diner, which has been in business for 12 years, is kaput.
“We are closing tonight,” owner Maroulla Michael said Monday afternoon. “I can’t do it 24 hours a day by myself anymore.”
Before it was St. Pete Diner, the building on U.S. 19 and 11th Avenue was home for 18 years to a Sambo’s restaurant. Most of the waitresses have worked at the diner from the start, some clocking 11 years or more, but they were given only six days’ notice about the closing. Michael said she found a buyer and learned about the sale only a few days ago.
“I sold the place last week,” Michael said. “It’s not going to be a restaurant anymore.”
Carey Canedy has waitressed at the diner since 2007. She said Michael had been looking to sell for a while.
“We thought we’d have a little more notice,” Canedy said. “It’s sad and we are all scrambling to find jobs.”
Michael wasn’t sure exactly what the new owners would be putting in, a store perhaps.
“The new owners haven’t been in once,” Canedy said. “We aren’t sure what is happening.”
“I’m sad,” Michael said. “I’ve been here for 12 years.”
Tampa Bay Breakfasts, a father-son blog devoted to the morning meal, summed up St. Pete Diner’s charms last November with a four-and-a-half pancake rating: “We had good chow in a locals diner at a fair price, and the coffee never went dry.”
Until this week.