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Roundup: Fond adieu for a St. Pete fixture, Hooters layoffs, PIE and Albert Whitted funding, credit downgrades

Margie Manning



Photo credit: The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot was in business for 32 years in St. Petersburg. Now, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the St. Petersburg location at 2221 4th St. N. is closed for business indefinitely.

The franchisor has been actively seeking a new location in Pinellas County to debut a new flagship Melting Pot,  a news release said. But after the restaurant, known for its fondue dining, was forced to close its dining room on March 20 because of a state ban on dine-in service, the owners of the 4th Street property accelerated its decision to sell the land, the release said.

The Melting Pot’s locations in Sarasota and in Tampa were not impacted by the announcement, although the Tampa location is temporarily closed and will welcome customers when the dine-in service ban is lifted, the company said. The Sarasota location is offering a four-course to-go order.

Nearly 600 employees were laid off at 10 local Hooters restaurants. The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported layoff notices from Hooters III Inc. operations at 4125 4th St. N. and 2250 Tyrone Square, both in St. Petersburg, as well as at two locations in Clearwater, four sites in Tampa, one in Port Richey and one in Spring Hill. The 10 restaurants were forced to significantly reduce their operations, due to the pandemic and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive orders, the company said in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notice.

Spinecare Associates LLC, which does business as Florida Spine Institute, and Clearwater Orthopedics LLC, which does business as CMed Ambulatory Surgery Center, also notified the DEO that it is laying off workers. The total number of employees laid off between the two companies was 62, according to a March 27 WARN made public today. The company does not know if the layoffs are permanent or temporary, it said in its notice, which cited business circumstances related to Covid-19 and state orders impacting the business.

Tampa technology company Syniverse Holdings’ revenue and earnings are likely to come under additional pressure from the spread of the coronavirus, Moody’s Investors Service said in an April 13 report. Moody’s downgraded Syniverse credit ratings to Caa1, a speculative grade rating considered poor quality and very high risk.

The downgrades reflect Syniverse’s limited liquidity and Moody’s growing concerns over sustainability of the capital structure in its current form, the credit agency said.

Moody’s negative outlook reflects the risk that revenue and earnings will be pressured as the spread of the coronavirus impacts the company’s mobile transaction services, particularly roaming and number portability, Moody’s said.

Moody’s separately downgraded several ratings for Welbilt (NYSE: WBT), a commercial food equipment manufacturer in New Port Richey, saying the downgrades reflect Moody’s expectation of deteriorating conditions in the company’s end-markets and more broadly in the macroeconomic environment, and weak liquidity.

About 100 airports in Florida are in line for a total of $896 million in federal funds to help respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. The funding comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Airport Grant Program, an effort to provide unprecedented and immediate relief to American families, workers, and businesses, federal officials said.

Tampa International Airport will get $81 million, the most of any local airport. St. Pete-Clearwater International (PIE) will get $8.7 million while Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg is in line for $30,000.

The funding will support continuing operations and replace lost revenue resulting from the sharp decline in passenger traffic and other airport business, the U.S. Department of Transportation said. The money can be used for airport capital expenditures, airport operating expenses including payroll and utilities, and airport debt payments.

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