Tampa, Florida -- A popular South Howard restaurant is in hot water with the City of Tampa. CopperFish restaurant has racked up nearly $800,000 in fines for violations.
Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn and CopperFish owner Gordon Davis smiled for the cameras at an event at the restaurant Thursday night. They were celebrating the success of the businesses along SoHo's restaurant row. Behind the scenes, the city and the seafood grill are in a legal battle over code enforcement and building violations.
"Some bad decisions were made," said Mayor Buckhorn. "Permits were not pull. We're in litigation over it."
The city said the restaurant in the Hyde Park Historic District was remodeled without approval from the Architectural Review Commission or inspectors. Each violation is tallying up fines of $1,000 every day, currently totaling $280,000 a piece.
CopperFish is also valet parking without city approval in a location where there should be a sidewalk. That violation is costing the restaurant $210,000 so far, since fines started in September.
Davis is appealing a judge's ruling to pay up. He told 10 News the $770,000 bill doesn't concern him. "Because right now, everyone is being honest and fair about things and I think everything will sort itself out," he said. "I think there can be with the city a knee-jerk reaction to the neighborhoods."
Anneliese Meier said neighbors have worked hard to clean up SoHo and believes if citations aren't enforced, it'll set a bad precedent. "It's a slap in the face to the city staff who work so hard. It's a slap in the face to the taxpayers," said Meier. "He needs to follow the rules, because then other people are going to violate them as well and we'll have a bigger problem on our hands."
Davis continues to operate the valet and is even charging customers $5.
The city said it's waiting for Copper Fish to file additional paperwork for the appeal to move forward.