Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food restaurant in Midtown St. Petersburg plagued by problems

10:03 PM, Dec 20, 2013   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida - Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food restaurant was sold to the public as the spark to revitalize the historic community of Midtown, but after 6 weeks in business, the restaurant appears to be plagued by problems.

Tanya Woods says words can't really express how excited she was to get a job at Sylvia's Queen of Soul Food in the historic Midtown community of St. Petersburg. 

"I really put out my effort and my best for this job. I would walk 32 blocks from the restaurant to here," she said.

Woods works as a hostess at the restaurant, welcoming guests and sharing the history of the Harlem based restaurant with them. The restaurant has been around since 1962, and is known for its' ribs, mac  and cheese and collard greens- whether it's for celebrities, American presidents, locals or tourists.

It took eight years for city leaders like former Mayor Rick Baker to get a Sylvia's restaurant here, and it's supposed to be the spark to revitalize the Midtown area. 

"An important reason why we did it is so that we could have employment in Midtown and the city, and there's a lot of folks working here today," he said.

Woods is happy to be one of them despite the customer complaints early on and some negative publicity about the restaurant. 

"It was close to about a 45 minute wait to be honest with you.
They were saying the food wasn't that great, and they said the servers were kind of rude to the guests," she said.

Woods says the restaurant seems to have improved, but with a drop off in customers after the grand opening, now employee's hours have been cut. Woods said she may be homeless soon.

"We don't want to lose good employees, but still again as we're moving forward, we also have to look at the business to make sure the business can continue to be here and support the staff that we have," said Patrick Wright, the interim general manager at Sylvia's. 

Wright said they've addressed the complaints and made improvements. He said some of the issues are normal for a restaurant opening. 

Friday afternoon around lunch time, customers were being seated as soon as they walked through the door. There did not appear to be long waits for patrons to receive their entrees. Kareem and Sherrie Collins ate lunch at the restaurant and said they were pleased with the food and their server.

Woods said she has no choice now but to look for a new job since the amount of hours she's worked has gone from more than forty, to just six. 

"But I'm going to do what I can do to survive. That's all I want to be able to do, is to be able survive in this world and make it," she said. 

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