ST. PETERSBURG — The owner of an aviation maintenance company that is being evicted from its aircraft hangar at Albert Whitted Airport after hosting a Feb. 5 Super Bowl party with rapper 50 Cent said he was being used as a “scapegoat.”
In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, Abraham Tray, manager and registered agent of sky Addict Aviation, characterized himself as a father and small business owner responsible for a child and one full-time employee. Now, he said, his business and income is in jeopardy because Mayor Rick Kriseman terminated his lease at the airport.
“My business is now facing a crisis,” he wrote. “An additional one on the top of the global crisis that we are all facing for nearly a year already.”
Kriseman’s decision to terminate Sky Addict’s lease of the 3,000 foot hangar — a five-year term that was just renewed in December — was based on the fact that hosting a concert is outside the scope of what the hangar space is supposed to be used for. Sky Addict also failed to file a COVID-19 safety plan, required by the city for events larger than 250 people. That rule went into effect on Feb. 1. Sky Addict was given 180 days to vacate.
“Mr. Tray has six months to find another location for his business,” wrote Kriseman spokesman Ben Kirby in an email Friday. “He violated the terms of his lease and local orders. He should have considered the consequences in advance.”
In his statement, Tray explained that a few weeks ago, a friend asked to use the space for a marketing event with all proceeds going to charity. The friend — whose name Tray didn’t reveal in his statement, but did share with city officials — targeting the aircraft hangar “because it had the capacity to hold the gathering with healthy distance between people and it is partially outdoors.” Tray agreed to donate the hangar space after being “assured all permissions and health protocols would be met and that safety measures would be in place.”
“I know how desperately people want to feel ‘the normal life’ again,” he wrote.
The event, which featured 50 Cent and Tampa’s DJ Fresh, was supposed to be “limited capacity,” with admission starting at $85 to to $7,000 for a table, according to tabloid website TMZ, which first reported the news of the party. Despite the capacity restriction and safety efforts — which Tray said included signs and a safety team reminding people of proper mask and distancing etiquette — TMZ called the event “COVID-oblivious” and photos show many attendees not following the rules.
Kirby said the city is exploring punitive action against the event organizer.
The news of the the city terminating the lease of Sky Addict’s aircraft hangar caused some confusion among patrons who feared the Hangar Restaurant and Flight Lounge was being evicted. Owner Steve Westphal said the restaurant received about 30 phone calls from concerned customers.
Last week’s party may not have been the first hangar party in St. Petersburg during the pandemic. Photos and posts on Facebook show there was a party Nov. 25 at a St. Petersburg aircraft hangar. It’s unclear if it was Sky Addict’s hangar; Tray did not return a request for comment, and city officials said they have no knowledge of a Nov. 25 event.
• • •
Tampa Bay Times Super Bowl 55 coverage
SUPER BOWL CHAMPS: Bucs are world champs, and there may never be a better tale to tell
CELEBRATE WITH TIMES KEEPSAKES: Order Tampa Bay Times front pages, a special commemorative section and other gear
FROM THE GAME: 55 observations on attending the Super Bowl in Tampa
MORE BUCS PHOTOS: Follow the Tampa Bay Times Bucs coverage on Instagram
BUCS NEWSLETTER: Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter with team reporter Joey Knight:
We’re working hard to bring you the latest Super Bowl news from around the Tampa Bay area. This effort takes resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a digital or print subscription.