RUSKIN — A popular Ruskin restaurant is facing foreclosure due to loan default.
The Fish House, according to lawsuit documents filed Aug. 8 by Wells Fargo in Hillsborough County’s 13th Judicial Circuit Court, has stopped making payments on two loans and property taxes. The bank is seeking a $120,000 principal payment, plus interest.
Julie Cockerham, who bought the restaurant in 2008 from its original owners, Jeff and Cheryl Horne, took out loans totaling $320,000 from Wells Fargo. She had been working part-time for the restaurant for more than two years at the time of the purchase. Cockerham could not be immediately reached for comment.
Court records say Julie Cockerham and her then-husband Douglas F. Cockerham secured the loans using their Ruskin home as collateral. The couple divorced in 2013.
In the lawsuit, attorneys for Wells Fargo say Julie Cockerham took out a $220,000 loan on Feb. 26, 2008, to purchase The Fish House. She defaulted on that loan when she didn’t make a payment on Feb. 26, 2018.
On Feb. 29, 2008, Wells Fargo also issued the restaurant owner a $100,000 business equity line of credit. Court record show Julie Cockerham couldn’t make a payment on that loan by its Aug. 15, 2016, due date as well as real property taxes for 2016 and 2017.
The bank notified Julie Cockerham that the loan was facing default on May 10, 2018.
The popular casual seafood eatery on Shell Point Road in South County is ranked No. 4 on Trip Advisor out of 58 restaurants in Ruskin. It’s also on the top 10 list of several other popular online vacation and eatery guides that describe it as "a truly fantastic find as far as eateries go around Ruskin." The online guides praise The Fish House’s open dining area and scenery.
In 2014, The Fish House was named a Gold Winner in a Tampa Tribune readers’ poll.