Across the Gandy Bridge from the hustle and bustle of Tampa lies the more sedate Saint Petersburg. Drive past Deadman Key to the white, sandy stretch of St. Pete Beach and you can find the unique Postcard Inn on the Beach. St. Pete natives and hotel visitors simply call it the PCI.
The relaxed atmosphere immediately welcomes visitors to their home away from home. Inside the lobby, rope intricately tied in sailor’s knots hang from the ceiling alongside bare light bulbs. Painted skateboards and surfboards are nailed to the walls in colorful and eye-catching displays for the hotel’s guests to enjoy. A quote painted boldly over the lobby entryway reads: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.” The PCI is so much more than a beachside boutique hotel.
“It’s way different than any type of hotel we were ever at,” hotel guest Cooki Tackash said.“It’s like a beach house or something.”
The PCI offers more than just ambiance. Features available to guests include a separate wading pool for children, paddleboard rentals for the adventurous and beachside cabanas. People from all places and all walks of life enjoy the privacy of the cabanas and the escape from the elements. Guests are not the only ones enjoying themselves. Even the staff prefer their jobs above any other.
“I don’t want to be working in Publix,” cabana attendant Alex Anderson said. “I’d rather be out on the beach talking to people.”
PCI is popular not only for its guest accommodations and amenities, but also for its events. Though it plays host to outside events like corporate meetings and weddings, it also offers events of its own.
“Every year we do an annual holiday party to celebrate our lighting of the Christmas tree,” said Gina Trigg, senior catering sales manager for PCI. “We are hosting a Hawaiian-themed one this year.”
An evergreen tree bearing ocean-themed ornaments—to include an eye-catchingly large, red and glittery lobster—holds pride of place outside the hotel awaiting the grand ceremony.
Colorful neon signage marks the entrance to PCI’s attached restaurant, the PCI Bar & Grill. Flat-screen televisions that play the Sunday football games hang from wood-paneled walls. Swirling, tropical chalk drawings hang over the booths. If not for its size, it could be the den of any devoted St. Petersburg beachcomber.
Creative Loafing Magazine has named PCI’s beach bar the “Best in St. Pete” for the past three years. Adding to its individuality, Postcard Inn on the Beach is the only location on the beach where it is possible to find barbecue.
“We smoke our own chicken and we smoke our own pork actually on the property,” said Bob Sauerwine, PCI’s Director of Marketing and Sales. “Pulled pork is our most popular item on the menu.”
People on vacation, wearing flip-flops and sand in their hair, share space and stories with locals in button-down shirts stopping by for a lunch break.
While the PCI Bar and Grill caters to tourists and locals looking for affordable—and delicious—meals, the bar is prime real estate for the beach bums.
“It’s a very popular 20s-30s niche out there,” Sauerwine said. “It’s been there a long time.”
The bar has stood there longer than any other on St Pete Beach. In fact, it is so old that it has merited a name change: until 2009, it was called the “Swigwam.” The kitschy vintage flavor that first christened the “Swigwam” has carried through even today. The PCI beach bar offers live entertainment every night alongside the rustic atmosphere and delicious drinks.
Not only natives and vacationers enjoy what PCI has on offer. PCI is often a stop on the path of the rich and famous.
“I’ve met quite a few famous people,” beach bartender Mark Walker said. “James Franco stayed here for a couple of months while they were filming the ‘Spring Breakers’ movie.”
For those too young to drink or too eager to return to their beachside sun and fun to linger inside, PCI also runs a snack shack beside the beach bar that offers more portable fare. Their menu boasts a hot breakfast for early risers as well as shrimp, sandwiches and burgers until it closes at sunset.
“You can come here and relax and wear flip-flops and a T-shirt,” executive chef Bill Phillips said. “You’re on vacation. You should be able to relax.”
As the sun sinks beyond the Gulf horizon, the lanterns hanging from a tree behind the hotel are lit one by one. Guests with drinks in hand gather outside to enjoy the sunset and the music drifting from the beach bar. Inside, the self-proclaimed “best barbeque on the beach” awaits their return.