Sweetbay closing sets off scramble at city hall - FOX 13 News

Sweetbay closing sets off scramble at city hall

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

St. Petersburg city  officials are setting up meetings with other supermarket chains, while still trying to convince Sweetbay to keep its Midtown store open -- but the clock is ticking.

The store is in shutdown mode, set to close February 13th, possibly sooner if it sells off the inventory.

In the meantime, the closure is becoming a hot political issue. Sweetbay is closing more than 20 stores in the Tampa Bay area, but the one in Midtown St. Petersburg is especially contentious.

The next closest groceries are a couple of miles away.

The closure is a sensitive subject at city hall, because the city invested heavily in developing the shopping complex as part of a plan to ignite redevelopment.

Last week, during an update on the situation, tempers flared on the subject. But on the upside, City Council chair Karl Nurse is confident that Sweetbay competitors, including Publix and Walmart, will consider taking over the Midtown store.

"I would think that we should have things set up and meeting within a handful of days," Nurse said.

Nurse also thinks Sweetbay might reconsider the mid-February closure.

"We're going to work out something with Sweetbay within the next 10 days, and [either] they don't close, or the store will go dark and we'll negotiate with somebody else," Nurse said.

Nurse thinks recent and future economic activity in midtown will help sell the retail site.

Midtown generally encompasses some of St. Petersburg's poorest neighborhoods, so a supermarket within walking distance is viewed as a critical need.

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