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.”