Revamped Manhattan Casino food hall and co-working space aims to lift up South St. Pete restaurateurs

Vincent Jackson details the phased reopening which could start in October.

click to enlarge Vincent Jackson, Vice President of The Callaloo Group. - CHARITYPOLOCLASSIC/FACEBOOK
Vincent Jackson, Vice President of The Callaloo Group.

Tampa Bay is quickly becoming a hotbed for several upcoming food hall concepts coming to the area in the next few months. Don’t forget to add The Historic Manhattan Casino’s food hall to your list when it opens early October. The landmark is getting a facelift two years after its grand reopening with restaurants Callaloo and Pipo’s To Go.

“We’re creating more of a destination. This space will have more uses than what we started with previously,” Vincent Jackson, Vice President of The Callaloo Group, tells CL.

Jackson, a former Tampa Bay Buccaneer who stayed invested in the community, along with partners Mario Farias and Ramon Hernandez, is transitioning the space into a destination that works as a launching pad for smaller, local businesses. The transformation began earlier this year with a partnership with Leigh Fletcher and Tina Fischer of co-working space Rising Tide Innovation Center. Jackson says the partnership brings a new crowd and a new look to the building located at 22nd St. S in S. Petersburg. Jackson says once Fletcher and Fischer understood what the lease entailed and how the historic building serves the youth and community, they were on board.

“We were able to partner with them and bring that vibe into our space to create more space and consistency with patrons in the building,” Jackson explains.

Jackson says they want to expand Manhattan Casino’s incubator for a commissary kitchen. Memberships for the kitchen vary depending on usage. Main vendors pay $4,000-$8,000 per month while others who don’t require too much kitchen use will pay a different rate. Members have full access to work on their products. St. Petersburg’s Chef Mel from 3 Generations food truck and the Graveley brothers serve as two anchor tenants for the restaurant side while a search for a third anchor is ongoing. Deuces Coffee and Calle 22 are smaller entities that allow visitors to network while grabbing a hot drink or a selection of small bites like sandwiches and pastries. Per their lease, Manhattan Casino will still host various events featuring live music. Lunch prices range between $6-$12, dinner will be $8-$16. 

“You’ll have two or three restaurants to choose from if you want to sit down and stay for a meal, the to-go counter for lunch, coffee, and pastries, and we’ll be creating more nightlife with the event space,” Jackson explains. 

Inside seating is capped at 150 seats to adhere to social distancing rules so visitors aren’t on top of each other. 

“It’ll be more usable for people to come in and do meetings if they want. We need to have different tables and chairs, so the setting is comfortable,” he says. 

The food hall is still in the development phase, so everything is tentative. Jackson says it’s a step-by-step process and they can’t have a big grand opening right away. The food hall will open in increments, beginning with the coffee shop and small bites to accommodate social distancing, around early October. Once the phases are complete, look out for a relaunch event early 2021.

“We don’t want to jeopardize tenants. We’re going to open in phases that are manageable to get some activity going,” he says. 

A nonprofit was created to empower and bring more support to vendors. They’ll learn how to transition their businesses into brick-and-mortars through hands-on methods like raising money and creating generational wealth. He says they’ll have the opportunity to be successful and expand their businesses. 

“Whether it’s out of their house or food truck, the nonprofit will be hands-on with the different vendors,” Jackson says.

Food businesses interested in qualifying to be part of the food hall or commissary kitchen must have a business plan, be a non-brick-and-mortar restaurant concept, and focus on the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Area’s (CRA) residents, minorities, and low-income entrepreneurs. 

“The vendors aren’t high-end. We’re bringing in people that are local and affordable to everyone,” says Jackson.

An advisory board made of community residents from South St. Pete was created to ensure the changes to the Manhattan Casino don’t erase its significance to the area. The board, composed of 14 members, is involved with any decision-making like vendors, events, and building use. Jackson says people are excited for the new concept but there’s been concern surrounding getting the Manhattan Casino back thriving like in its heyday when entertainers like James Brown, Ray Charles, and Sarah Vaughn performed.

“People want to see this building because it’s valuable. There’s a sensitivity for the historic value of what it’s been since 1925,” he says.

Jackson says the food hall will provide opportunities for the community. There’s a huge focus on minorities getting the chance to develop their own businesses while also catering to the community’s interests from music to art.

“We want to be diverse and offer different food options for the local community to enjoy and afford. We’ll just be a facility for everything South St. Pete represents,” he says. 

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