Mayor Rick Kriseman announced plans last week for the Callaloo Group to open a Southern-Caribbean fusion restaurant in the historic Manhattan Casino. The proposal includes a to-go only Cuban style restaurant and arts and entertainment.
ST. PETERSBURG – The historic Manhattan Casino was once the center of arts and entertainment for St. Petersburg’s African-American community.
Now city officials see it as central to the revival of the neighborhood and people who live nearby.
To help get to that goal, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has announced plans for Callaloo, a restaurant serving Southern-Caribbean fare, to take over the building, 642 22nd St. S in the area known as “the Deuces.”
“The Deuces is back and once more growing in significance in the Tampa Bay Region,” Kriseman said when announcing the deal.
The restaurant is the brainchild of the Callaloo Group, whose members include Vincent Jackson, an African-American millionaire who lives in Tampa. Jackson is well known to football fans for his All-American collegiate career, and stints with both the San Diego Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jackson also has several restaurants and has owned multiple Orange Theory fitness studios, and managing companies for growth and success.
Others in the Callaloo Group include Ramon Hernandez, owner of Pipo’s restaurants in the Bay Pines area of Seminole and in downtown St. Petersburg, and Chef Gary Moran, who opened South Tampa’s Wimauma restaurant.
Under the proposal, the Callaloo restaurant will be just one venture housed in the Manhattan Casino.
“A Pipo’s Café will also be built within the Callaloo venue adjacent to the kitchen,” the proposal says. “This will serve not only as training facility for our potential partners, but as a separate fully operational to-go only restaurant serving the iconic Cuban fare of Pipo’s for those who don’t want a sit-down restaurant experience.”
The group also plans to operate a Pipo’s Café/Callaloo food truck from the venue.
Plans extend to more than food.
Manhattan Casino | Callaloo | BusainessThe group says it has commitments from local musicians including Shawn Brown, Henry Ashwood Jr., Cat Williams Trio, On Que Players, William Brother Blues Band, Anthony Castellano, and Steve Wilson.
Art and culture are also part of the package. One goal, according to the proposal, is to offer a permanent gallery to display art by the Florida Highwaymen.
“We will also dedicate space to the new generation of local artists on a rotating basis to maintain the rich history of the building as a place where art of all type is celebrated,” the proposal says. “We believe this will help serve as a bridge between the Warehouse Arts District and the historic Deuces Live.”
The group is also proposing to create an apprenticeship program to allow students in the Pinellas Technical College culinary program to work with the chefs at Callaloo.
The proposal harkens back to the Manhattan Casino’s history when it was central to the culture of St. Petersburg’s African-American community.
“Built in 1925, the Manhattan Casino is significant for its contribution to entertainment and the culture in the African American community for more than forty years. Some of American music’s most legendary performers played at the Manhattan including James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Sarah Vaughn, Fats Domino and the Ink Spots,” the city says.
“The Manhattan Casino was a showcase for local African American artists as well as a haven for traveling African American entertainers who would stop in St. Petersburg during their tours. After the era of the big bands, the Manhattan Casino hosted dances featuring local artists; rock and roll and blues singers popular in the 1960’s also performed at the Casino. Goldie Thompson, local minister and radio personality, booked religious programs at the Casino, as did Father Divine, a spiritualist. The venue closed its doors in 1968.”
The Manhattan Casino was home to Sylvia’s, a Harlem-based restaurant, that the city evicted in 2016 for failing to pay rent. The city has been searching for a new tenant since October.
For information about the Manhattan Casino, go to stpete.org.
Photos From Announcement of Decision for Callaloo to Take Over Manhattan Casino by Anne Lindberg, TB Reporter.
By ANNE LINDBERG, TB Reporter