Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Business

I.C. Sharks waterfront restaurant forced to close again

ST. PETERSBURG — I.C. Sharks, a popular waterfront bar and restaurant shut down by a temporary injunction eight months ago, has been forced to close again.

Pinellas County filed an emergency motion late last week because the Gandy Boulevard restaurant had failed to obey the order issued last November by Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge John A. Schaefer.

The dispute over building, water navigation and zoning regulations is several years old. Pinellas County code enforcement manager Todd Myers said the restaurant has racked up liens of more than $1 million.

"The fines have been accumulating since May 2013," he said.

I.C. Sharks remained open while it fought Schaefer's order in the 2nd District Court of Appeal. The court ruled against the restaurant in May and issued its final mandate in June. Last week, the restaurant agreed to obey the injunction.

"With heavy hearts, we have complied with the Court's order," said a notice at the restaurant at 13040 Gandy Blvd. "We hope to resolve everything and be able to reopen as soon as possible."

It also noted that the bait and tackle shop and retail seafood market would remain open.

In granting Pinellas County's request for a temporary injunction last fall, Schaefer noted overwhelming evidence "that the defendants have had numerous zoning, land use and site plan violations, some spanning three years."

"We are continuing our efforts to resolve any perceived issues with Pinellas County, same as we have been doing since 2012. Unfortunately, it's been very difficult to do so," wrote Paige Storman, whose husband, Brian, owns I.C. Sharks, in an email.

"The issues all stem from our Tiki bar, which we feel the county has misinterpreted their own code regarding our privately-owned, man-made submerged land. And while our appeal was not successful in the way that we had hoped, we are continuing to work with our attorneys in regards to further legal options."

Court documents show that the thatched tiki roof — over an observation pier and a bar on the structure — was one of the violations. The business had a permit to build the pier and passed the county's inspection in February 2012, but the covered bar on the pier was added later.

County Attorney James Bennett told the Tampa Bay Times during an interview last year that covered structures are not allowed over water because of environmental concerns. The Stormans said then that their covered dock should be permitted because both the county and state make exceptions for structures with thatched roofs built by Miccosukee Indians.

The judge's order cited other violations, including that some of the floating docks had been built without permits and failure to get zoning clearance to operate a bar and restaurant over unzoned submerged lands. I.C. Sharks is also said to have failed to adhere to a final site plan and did not offer adequate off-street parking. It also is accused of failing to obtain a permit for plumbing and electricity for the bar on the pier.

I.C. Sharks is also tied up in a legal dispute with its next door neighbor, the Getaway, another waterfront bar and restaurant with a tiki feature. Matt Weidner, the lawyer representing the Getaway, said its tiki bar has the required permits. The Getaway has sued its neighbor, saying that the restaurant trespassed on Getaway's easement and water basin. It also claimed that I.C. Sharks is a public nuisance and accused the business of parking and traffic violations.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Waveney Ann Moore at [email protected] or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

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