Tampa, Florida -- A popular South Tampa restaurant, already facing mounting fines for code violations, was also cited for health code violations.
The city says owner Gordon Davis remodeled the CopperFish Grill in the Historic Hyde Park District without approval or proper permits, and its valet parking is also in violation. Fines against the restaurant also increased $2,750 on Friday.
"We get people parking here, maybe he is not following other rules," said neighbor Anneliese Meir.
The SoHo restaurant has been cited for health code violations and came under the microscope by state inspectors a few months ago.
State inspection records show a consumer launched a complaint against the restaurant in December alleging a problem with the plumbing and rodents. The next day inspectors found 15 violations, but no evidence supporting that complaint.
During the state's health inspection of CopperFish earlier in June, inspectors discovered 26 violations, such as mold in the ice machine. Last Friday, inspectors found only one outstanding issue: no proof of employee training.
As for the other violations and nearly $800,000 in fines against owner Davis, he's fighting it in court.
CopperFish faces $772,750 in fines, neighbors and businesses impacted by the violations
In his 129-page appeal, Davis claims he didn't receive proper notice, there is no evidence to support the city's citations, and the judge is fining him more than the maximum allowed in the ordinance.
"I think there can be with the city a knee-jerk reaction to the neighborhoods, but the process is there for us to use," Davis said.
In a related issue, parking has become a growing problem in the popular SoHo area. Businesses are scrambling for lot space and paying valet companies.
Ciccio Restaurant Group Owner James Lanza insists these fines need to be enforced. "It should've been done a long time ago, so everyone has adequate parking, and there won't be any problems with misusing of other people's parking and with the neighbors," Lanza said.
The city cracked down on MacDinton's earlier this year for noise violations and owner Barry O'Connor said it was important to fix the problem to keep the neighbors and inspectors happy.
"We changed our speakers, the position of the speakers and the position of the volume," O'Connor says. "Our neighbors are our customers."
Business and neighbors have formed a SoHo Business Alliance to work together to solve some of these issues.