Bad news for the St. Pete restaurant scene: Shirley's Soul Food Diner shuts its doors

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Not less than one week after Shackleton’s Folly (mercifully) went out of business, South St. Petersburg has lost another institution of the city’s restaurant scene.  Greasy spoon and political hot spot Shirley’s Soul Food shut its doors on Thursday.

Shirley’s closing is a real loss for the African-American community as Shirley’s was, for many, the heart and soul of its 34th Street South neighborhood.  Along with Atwater’s — which is also struggling for business — Shirley’s was a place where politicians, black and white alike, met to hash out the city’s problems.

While most sensible people will blame the tough economy for Shirley’s closing, I can’t help but wonder if the kind of food, as delicious as it may be,  Shirley’s was offering is from a time when restaurants didn’t have to post caloric intake information on its walls and diners weren’t as health conscious as they are today.

No one else will say, so I might as well: White urban liberals, who once wore it as a point of pride to check out spots like Atwater’s or Shirley’s, just don’t like soul food as much as they once did.  And unless you can make tapas plates out of soul food staples like black-eyed peas and okra and ham-hocks, those customers aren’t coming back.

Of course, I could also blame Mayor Bill Foster for jinxing the place by hosting his first Breakfast with the Mayor at Shirley’s.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.