Retired Marine Opens Pour-Your-Own Wine Bar In St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, FL — Historic Kenwood recently welcomed a new neighborhood hangout when The Study, a pour-your-own wine and beer lounge, opened its doors at 3100 3rd Ave. N. in September.

Jeff Velazquez, a former Marine Corps firefighter, fell in love with wine and the pour-your-own concept while visiting a bar in the Napa Valley area after retiring from the military in 2018.

“I’d never seen anything like it or heard of it before,” he told Patch. “I was just so impressed by it. I thought, ‘This is amazing.’”

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Over time, he got to know the bar’s owner and asked to come in on weekends “to pick his brain,” Velazquez said. “I was looking for something to do in retirement.”

The owner created an apprenticeship program for him, allowing him to work weekend shifts at the wine bar and training him on how to run the business.

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Unfortunately, his mentor died about a year into their working together.

“His kids took over and ran the bar into the dirt,” Velazquez said. “It was a shame.”

Still, he was enamored with the concept, but not confident in venturing out on his own just yet. So, he went back to school through the Post-9/11 GI Bill and earned a business degree.

He moved to Pinellas County, following his parents who had relocated to Seminole two decades earlier, and decided he would open his wine bar in Florida.

Velazquez found another bar, Symposium in Indian Shores Beach, and connected with the owner, asking for mentorship in the industry. Unfortunately, this was just months before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down restaurants and bars and limited how they could operate even after reopening. The bar was forced to close for good.

At this point, he decided he was ready to open The Study.

“It’s been six years in the making — from when I started coming up with the idea, learned how to run it, wrote my mission statement and business plan,” he said.

As the area came out of the pandemic, it was difficult to find affordable properties to rent for his wine bar, though.

“Talk about an emotional rollercoaster. A lot of places were not really feeling that kind of concept,” Velazquez said. “In the downtown area, they really want restaurants. The first thing (landlords) ask you is what kind of food will you serve? They weren’t happy. They wanted full menus or nothing at all.”

When he did find a property that might work for him, he was outbid by other business owners. He went through four realtors during his search for a home for The Study.

“Three just gave up on me,” he said.

When Velazquez first saw his current location, he knew immediately it “was a great fit.”

“There are homes nearby and a very supportive community,” he said.

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He’s happy to bring a space to locals looking for a place to relax.

“The Study is the name and the best way to describe it is those who were lucky enough to have mansions had a study, a specific room they could go in and decompress. They’d sit in their recliner, in their chaise lounge, surrounded by a bunch of books with their bourbon or class of wine, and they’d have this quiet room so they could reset,” Velazquez said.

He added, “That’s the whole purpose of The Study. Let’s be honest; the world’s tough out there. It doesn’t matter your level of income. So, come in, have a glass of wine, a beer, and decompress. That way when the next morning comes, you’re ready to attack.”

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