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Fine dining restaurant coming to Mahaffey Theater

Bill DeYoung



The Duke Energy Center for the Arts Mahaffey Theater. Photo provided.

Bill Edwards, whose Big3 Entertainment has managed the city-owned Mahaffey Theater since 2011, appeared before St. Petersburg City Council Thursday for his semi-regular “state of the partnership” speech.

To date, it was explained during a video presentation, Edwards has invested over $10 million of his own money, “to bring the Mahaffey into a new era.”

Bill Edwards

Edwards was brief. “It was a banner year this year – and we’re going to have another one this coming year,” he said. The theater’s Class Acts program, which buses area schoolchildren to the theater for educational entertainment, has been expanded to include more performances, and more children.

The longtime St. Pete business owner told commissioners that a section of the Mahaffey’s ornate lobby will become a fine dining restaurant in the fall. Ted Dorsey, formerly of The Mill, will be head chef at Sonata, featuring “coastal cuisine presented with Southern hospitality in an elegant atmosphere.”

A full kitchen was constructed at the Mahaffey in 2016, although until now it’s only been used for pre-show dinners and special events.

“This gives us the opportunity to use the theater and the kitchen and everything,” Edwards explained. “We found the room, we found the space … so now it’s going to be a restaurant you can go to for lunch or dinner, whether you have a show or not. You can go before the show, or after the show. It will be open to the public.”

He also announced the extension of the partnership with the Imagine Museum, which has been exhibiting contemporary glass art in the theater’s second-floor lobby since June. “So you’re sitting in a restaurant surrounded by amazing art,” Edwards said. “I think that’s a big coup for us and the city, to have all those things in one place.”

In 2021, the City signed its third five-year management agreement with Big3 Entertainment. St. Petersburg Managing Director of Development Chris Ballestra told councilmembers that the city is looking at approximately $900,000 in current maintenance costs for the electrical and audio systems to the facility, which dates back to 1965.

The sound mixing board and in-house speakers are aging out, Edwards said, and they all need to be replaced.

“I put $10 million into somebody else’s real estate,” Edwards said. “As of this year, I put in over a quarter of a million dollars to make things work. So it’s about time that the city realized that they have to take care of their own real estate.”








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    October 21, 2023at11:11 am

    Bill Edwards is an angel, a gift to our St.Pete vitality. Not so much the 1/3 time Mayo.The area around the Mahaffey is
    in a visible state of decline. The bench-living homeless (urination and defecation where ever they go, litter, fountain rancid water, planters filled w/always dead plants. Clearly both Bill Edwards and the city need to do something now. All over St. Pete visitors are paying $100+for nice dinners next to overflowing trash cans and urinating homeless. We can do better.

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