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22 South Food Hall closes: ‘We just didn’t expect to have to do it alone’

Bill DeYoung

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Servers and customers at 22 South Food Hall. Photo provided.

The Feb. 15 death of Vincent Jackson also meant the end of 22 South Food Hall, the revitalization project in the Deuces area of south St. Petersburg.

Jackson, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver, was a partner in the Callaloo Group, which opened the food hall – a combination of several different mini-restaurants – inside the venerable Manhattan Casino building in April. It was also an incubator for culinary startups and entrepreneurs.

At the time, Callaloo representatives said they were honoring Jackson’s wishes by moving ahead with the project.

“Vincent was the majority owner, and my partners and I have been carrying the food hall since Vincent’s death,” Callaloo principal Mario Farias said Wednesday. “His trust has decided that they are not going to be in the restaurant business.

“So they left us in a position where we had to make a financial decision.”

The loss of 22 South, Farias said, was an emotional blow. “This is five years of my life I’m giving up. And financially, it’s devastating for the remaining partners. We did what we could, and put our other investments and stuff on hold to continue making sure that payroll was paid, and everything else.”

Callaloo paid rent to the city, which owns the Manhattan Casino building, during the pandemic – before the food hall was able to open.

“The partners knew that it was going to be a heavy lift for the first year to year and a half,” he explained. “Every restaurant is that. And when all of a sudden over 50 percent of the lift is missing – the major investor is gone – it made it difficult. 

“We expected the heavy lift. We just didn’t expect to have to do it alone.”

The closure, he added, “is a horrible blow for the community. And having to face people life the Graveley Brothers, from Betterway BBQ, and saying ‘Listen, I can’t do it any more.’ I’m better off taking that money and investing it in them, in their own brick and mortar. Same thing with Ire Mon. Same thing with Shokkan Sushi.”

Some food hall employees will get jobs at The Big Catch at Salt Creek, another Farias investment. “I want to make sure they’re taken care of, because we have some really good employees,” he said. “I’m going to do what I can to make sure everybody’s whole.”

Hovering over it all is the specter of co-investor and longtime community supporter Jackson, who was found dead in a Tampa hotel room, at age 38.

“I loved this project,” Farias said. “This project was amazing. It was picking up steam, the food was amazing. The people operating there were great. So talented.

“It was unforseen. Whoever would think that a 38-year-old would up and die? If I was a gambling man I would bet on me, a 64-year-old fat guy, dying.”

RELATED: Deuces spotlight: Food hall prepares to launch, townhomes and commercial space advance

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    James Mack

    July 28, 2021at3:14 pm

    So sorry to hear this. Very sad.

  2. Avatar

    KAREN J. DOUGLAS

    July 28, 2021at3:17 pm

    This is a sad postscript to yesterday’s write up on the historic buildings. It is a challenge to begin businesses in a older, history laden community. I hope he is successful finding positions for all the staff.

  3. Avatar

    Jacqueline Middleton

    July 28, 2021at4:10 pm

    This is so sad. Especially since, ironically, the Tampa Bay Times just featured the 22 South Food Hall today (in the “Taste” section) as one of the new “Top 10 Hot New Restaurants” in St. Petersburg.

  4. Avatar

    Danny E White

    July 28, 2021at5:01 pm

    I am literally heartbroken over this news. Thank you, Mr. Farias and team, for giving it a good go. This is just terrible for the historical Deuces community… AGAIN!

  5. Avatar

    Shelle Berk

    July 28, 2021at7:35 pm

    I am so disheartened!! This concept was so good! And the food and service was top notch! I really was hoping they would succeed!

  6. Avatar

    Terry

    July 29, 2021at8:58 am

    I am so sorry to hear about this today. I loved everything about this place. I was a regular takeout customer and encouraged many others to give it a try? What is really happening in our community🙏🏾

  7. Avatar

    David Hosler

    July 29, 2021at3:29 pm

    The City could do a lot to help the neighborhood in this by working through some lease options. I have a business just down the street (7c music) and this food hall needs to make it for more than just one reason. This was a great place in a place that needs great things. The city owns the building so I hope someone steps up with some creativity and problem solving.

  8. Avatar

    Rose Hayes

    July 30, 2021at12:09 pm

    The new remodel is Top Notch. I love the place. The concept was not conducive to the businesses making money, sorry. I thought it would be individual businesses operating as a real food hall. Somebody Please save this Spot!!!!!!

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