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The life of the parties

Themed nights draw a diverse clientele to Spring Hill's Saints & Sinners Lounge.

By CHANDRA BROADWATER
Published November 19, 2006


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SPRING HILL

At 11 o'clock on a Wednesday night, the bass booms across the Mariner Village plaza.

The expansive asphalt parking lot is mostly empty. So is the usually clogged intersection of Spring Hill Drive and Mariner Boulevard.

What traffic there is steers toward a corner of the plaza, in the direction of the music that emanates from behind the closed door of Saints & Sinners Lounge.

Inside, Tampa's DJ Chris Craze mixes Beyonce, 50 Cent and some D4L, causing the bodies just beginning to make their way onto the dance floor to do the same.

Until now, the multiplying crowd has been standing around the bar, making the most of the $10 cover and free drinks until midnight. Others play pool at one of two tables.

In the past year, the nightclub has become a haven for those who want someplace to go - that's not a sports bar or plays only country music - without having to drive an hour down the Suncoast Parkway to Tampa.

Guys on this Wednesday are clothed in baggy jeans and stylish track suits; the ladies in tighter pants and shapely shirts, some showing off midriffs. Fancy sneakers, boots or high heels are the choice shoes.

After all, it's hip-hop night - one of the most popular nights at one of Hernando County's only nightclubs.

"I'm born and raised in Brooksville, baby girl," said 22-year-old Patrick Layman, who now lives in Spring Hill. He sported a Los Angeles Dodgers jacket and jeans; later on the dance floor he put on his sunglasses to groove.

"I think I speak for everyone when I say this is a great place for young people to come and mingle," Layman said. "I love this county, but, baby girl, there's nothing to do."

When they reopened the former Scorz bar as Saints & Sinners a year ago, owners Rob Starz and Mark Sabadishin hoped to cure that problem. And they hoped to corner a portion of an untapped market in rapidly growing Hernando County.

The best friends from New Jersey, both with shaved heads and stylish threads, gave the space an intense redesign with the goal of having a New York-style club. They did all the work themselves.

Instead of wood paneling and mirrors on the walls, there's the clean lines of a raised VIP section, a new lighting system and fog. The smoky effect of the cryogenics system always makes people feel like they're somewhere else.

Starz, a local architect, moved to Spring Hill with his wife and children five years ago to be closer to his parents. Sabadishin followed soon after. And they ended up running the bar.

They picked the Saints & Sinners name in honor of an English rugby team, the Saints. The Spring Hill nightspot shares the name of well-known English pub that the pair felt embodied what their club is about - offering something for everyone.

Then they began experiment ing with different themed nights to attract a bigger clientele.

Along with industrial or redemption night on Mondays and hip-hop on Wednesdays, the club features "Fear Factor" Fridays and ladies night on Saturdays. On Sundays, patrons can watch football.

So far the chameleon-like variety has been a hit for all ages. The club is visited by the just-turned-21 crowd to 65-year-olds.

The bar opens daily at 11 a.m. But stop by at 11 p.m. on a Monday, and you will wonder if it's the same place.

Fishnets, eyes rimmed in heavy black eyeliner and pink hair wander around the acid-rinsed concrete floor and backdrop of red ambient lighting. If the bartender feels like it, she may walk her pair of high black platform boots across the bar counter.

The thunderous tunes of rockers like Rob Zombie, along with punk and electronica, boom from the speakers. There might be some fire breathing, done by Starz himself, or a burlesque performance.

Starz doesn't deny that Saints & Sinners and the people who frequent it have gotten a bit of a bad rap - some of which he attributes to the club's name. It's an image he hopes to shake.

"I had a woman come in the other day, looking for a place to have a bridal party," Starz said. "But she said she wasn't sure about it because of things she had heard about us. When I finally got her to come in, she was like, 'Oh, this is really nice. It's pretty classy.' "

The Sheriff's Office has been called to the club several times over the past year - for incidents ranging from exposure of sex organs to battery, assault and possession of controlled substances.

Starz said that he and Sabadishin have since tried to curtail those types of occurrences by enforcing a dress code on Wednesdays and Saturdays and hiring more bouncers to oversee crowds. He added that they've consulted with the Sheriff's Office to stop drunken driving.

Eventually, Starz said, he would like to open another bar, possibly in the expanding area of Barclay Avenue and Anderson Snow Road. It would be nice to own a building, and keep the current location of Saints & Sinners in the center of Spring Hill, he said.

"People laugh when I bring up opening a gay bar," Starz said. "But that is the market right now in New York City. The income level for their patrons is at least $60,000 or higher. It's a really good market. We'll see."

News researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or 352 848-1432.

[Last modified November 18, 2006, 20:12:16]


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