Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

New Sylvia's deal for Manhattan Casino stirs the pot, is approved

ST. PETERSBURG — Even before Sylvia's could cook its famous food at the Manhattan Casino, the restaurant came under fire at a City Council meeting.

Controversy erupted after staffers asked the council to amend the 50-year lease it approved this summer to bring the Harlem-based restaurant to the Midtown neighborhood.

Despite a lengthy argument, the council voted 5-0 last week to change the lease from a partnership to a license agreement. Instead of being part owner, Sylvia's will train local workers how to cook its recipes.

The move allows Urban Development Solutions, led by Larry Newsome, who developed Tangerine Plaza Shopping Center, to close on tax credits by the end of the month.

Council member Jim Kennedy lambasted staffers and Newsome for seeking changes in the 11th hour.

"If this is the method of doing business, that's scary," he said.

Council member Charlie Gerdes said the group needs time to examine deals since taxpayers expect them to be watchdogs, adding: "We can't check our accountability at the door because we're rooting for something."

The original lease said Sylvia's, "a world-class soul food conglomerate," would form a partnership with Urban Development Solutions. Sylvia's would also train restaurant managers, cooks and staffers, and oversee the financial and operating systems.

Not anymore.

The deal is now for eight years and can be renewed for two five-year options.

In addition, Newsome will send employees to New York to learn how to prepare the food. Sylvia's will also send employees to St. Petersburg for two weeks before the restaurant opens.

The agreement, Newsome said, is now structured the way other restaurants establish franchises. Eight years is an "industry standard," he said.

Newsome said he never misled any city staffers and pointed out that they interpreted the documents differently than he did, adding: "There just wasn't a meeting of the minds."

Several council members tried delaying the vote until a special meeting could be held next week. The group became more alarmed when City Attorney John Wolfe said he hadn't examined the deal between Sylvia's and Newsome.

Council member Karl Nurse implored his colleagues to finalize the deal and asked them to envision him begging on his knees.

"This is a very big deal for us," he said. "Please don't blow this for us."

Mayor Bill Foster agreed.

The modified deal is not what he originally wanted, he said. He stressed that the city will not lose money and can get the building back if the business fails.

"There's no risk in doing that," Foster said. "The city is covered."

The council approval came after city attorneys tweaked the agreement to ban another franchise within 75 miles of St. Petersburg.

The original Sylvia's Restaurant is famous for its Southern home cooking. It was established in 1962 in Harlem, N.Y., by Sylvia Woods. She died in July. Her son, Van, attended the meeting Monday with Newsome.

The city spent about $2.8 million on the Manhattan Casino's renovation in 2005. Since then, it has struggled to find a suitable restaurant for the venue.

The two-story building, built in 1925, hosted jazz greats like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Count Basie but closed as a dance hall in 1966.

Applause erupted in Midtown when the council approved the earlier deal as residents expected Sylvia's to anchor the transformation of the neighborhood.

At that time, Foster said this: "I wanted it to be more than just another franchise."

When the restaurant does open, it will be the only Sylvia's franchise in the country.

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Comments

Deputies: 18-year-old speeding on U.S. 19 rear-ended car, faces charges of DUI, fleeing scene

PALM HARBOR — A speeding teenager on U.S. 19 refused to stop for deputies and took off, later rear-ending a car and injuring three adults early Sunday morning, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.A little after 1:30 a.m., Kingzig Montan...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Forecast: Sunny, high of 78 in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Sunny, high of 78 in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Temperatures should reach the upper 70s on a warm, sunny, mild Sunday, kicking off a mild week in Tampa Bay, forecasters predict. 10News WTSPThe latest Tampa Bay-area radar 10News WTSPFeels...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

Woman dies after falling ‘several decks’ from a balcony on a Carnival cruise

A woman sailing on a Carnival Cruise Line ship from Jacksonville fell from her cabin’s balcony and died Friday.Doral-based Carnival Cruise Line spokesman Vance Gulliksen confirmed the death Saturday, saying in a statement that the incident occurred e...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than in any other year on record, leaving the state scrambling to identify causes and find solutions. The tally, 428 inmate deaths in 2017, was released late Friday by the Florida Department of Correctio...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Leonard Pitts Jr.: One year later.

And here we are, one year later.If you are groping for markers by which to measure how profoundly we have been changed since Inauguration Day, here’s one you might want to consider:In January of 1998, reports surfaced of a sexual affair between Presi...
Published: 01/21/18
Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

Lightning falls to Wild, its fifth loss in seven games

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Lightning said all the right things about needing to look in the mirror and do some soul-searching during its recent funk. Veterans said they had to lead the way. Coach Jon Cooper believed this eight-game trip would "show us wha...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

Florida wins big SEC showdown with Kentucky

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jalen Hudson came off the bench to score 17, and Chris Chiozza, Keith Stone and Kevarrius Hayes contributed clutch baskets down the stretch as Florida rallied to upset No. 18 Kentucky 66-64 Saturday night. "We were able to win it jus...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

Shrine Game journal: USF players’ thoughts are with grieving QB Quinton Flowers

ST. PETERSBURG — USF had expected to have four former players in Saturday’s East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, but QB Quinton Flowers had to miss the showcase game after learning that his grandmother had died late last week."I most definitely ...
Published: 01/20/18
Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

Late score gives West victory over East in Shrine Game

ST. PETERSBURG — With less than a week to install a playbook, offenses can have it tough in college showcase games.And for 58 minutes on Saturday in the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field, the teams combined for just one offensive touchdown.But...
Published: 01/20/18
Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

Tampa Bay jobs chief Ed Peachey making top dollar

For years, Edward Peachey has bragged about the number of jobless people he has helped find work.As president and CEO of CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay, he’s in charge of the two main government agencies that provide training to the...
Published: 01/20/18