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New downtown St. Petersburg restaurant likely to close

ST. PETERSBURG — Margarita Mama's and Banana Joe's in downtown St. Petersburg was served with an eviction notice on Monday, less than two months after the restaurant and sports bar opened.

The restaurant opened Aug. 10 in the Kress Building at Central Avenue and Fifth Street N and according to building owner Samuel Boutros is being evicted because of failure to honor the terms of its contract. The tenant has not paid his part of utilities, has failed to address city code violations and owes a number of subcontractors money, he said.

"The likely fate is that they are going to be leaving," says Boutros. "They are not doing well and I've not been pleased with how things have been going. "

Absentee owner Michael Dennis could not be reached for comment from his office in Ohio where he runs another Banana Joe's, but restaurant general manager Cortney Penick confirms the imminent closure.

"We tried it and made an honest effort. We get busier day by day, but it's not enough. We have until Sept. 30, but it's up in the air. We'll be open normally until then."

Boutros attributes slow sales at the St. Petersburg location to the owner's "complete disregard as to what St. Pete is all about. Channelside is not St. Pete."

The previous iteration of the restaurant at Channelside made headlines several years back when two Carolina Panthers cheerleaders engaged in a sexual act in one of the bar's bathroom stalls.

The 8,000 square foot first-floor space underwent a complete build-out, having been transformed into a restaurant from a rug store. Boutros maintains high hopes for the space's future.

"There are plenty of people who want to be in that space. It's a good location and a classy building — this building has been on postcards over the years."

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293.

New downtown St. Petersburg restaurant likely to close 09/25/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 6:08pm]
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