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Bad business or sabotage by the city?

ST. PETERSBURG — To city officials, the story is straightforward: The lease is up at the historic Manhattan Casino and it’s time to see if there’s someone else out there who can revive it as a cultural gathering spot.

But the young, local and Black entrepreneurs who took over the lease say they don’t feel like they’ve gotten a fair chance to do and keep the job. They say they’re up to the task if the city would just do its part to maintain the venue that it owns.

Instead, the air conditioning is shot and the roof is leaking so they can’t book the main hall for events. Throw in a pandemic and road construction in front of the building, and they say they’re out a quarter-million dollars just keeping the doors open.

They say they’re frustrated that Ken Welch, the city’s first Black mayor elected earlier this year on a platform of bringing equity to the St. Petersburg’s minority community, won’t work with them.

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