Saturday, May 26, 2018
Business

South Tampa's Monstah Lobstah shuts down abruptly after disagreement

Clarification: Allen Berube did not have an ownership interest in the Monstah Lobstah location at 1901 W. Platt Street, Tampa, Florida. A story published in the Times on June 8, 2012, and online on June 7, 2012, was unclear on that point.

SOUTH TAMPA — Allen Berube had high hopes for Monstah Lobstah when he moved the restaurant to a new location last August.

Surrounded by the Rack Sushi Bar and Billiards Lounge and Hyde Park Cafe, he hoped to introduce South Tampa to his lobster rolls, crab cakes, fried shrimp and lobster burgers.

But less than a year into the venture, Berube abruptly closed what had become a hot spot for SoHo diners in search of seafood.

The restaurant, once a quick and casual stop for SoHo bar patrons, has been gutted of much of its equipment, including the cash register.

The reason behind the sudden closure is complex, but there's little question the loss is being felt by its Facebook fans.

"So sorry to hear that this has happened," wrote Chris Billek. "We will be there to support you at your new location as soon as it opens. You will be back Bigah and Bettah!"

"Please fight for your business," wrote April Pells. "You make the best lobster EVER!"

Berube said it was an ownership dispute that closed Monstah Lobstah and disagreements with landlord Tommy Ortiz, who owns 1901 W Platt St. and had negotiated a stake in the business.

Ortiz, who declined to comment for this story, is one of SoHo's most well-known property and business owners having founded restaurant and bars Hyde Park Cafe, Cheap and the Kennedy.

Much is being contested on why things went sideways between Ortiz and Berube at the tiny 906-square-foot lobster stop but at least one thing is clear:

The Bank of Tampa is foreclosing on the property, according to a Hillsborough County civil court notice the bank filed April 27.

When Berube learned about the foreclosure in May, he said, he had his attorney discuss an agreement where he would pay the bank rent instead of Ortiz's Tampa Hyde Park Cafe Properties group.

Soon, Ortiz sent him several notices including a lease termination and a requirement that Monstah Lobstah customers and staff park more than a block away, rather than at the property.

In the notices, Ortiz said, Berube had been delinquent on rent payments and owed $2,850 in fees, didn't provide for trash removal and hadn't obtained required insurance policies that the commercial lease agreement required.

But Berube said he wasn't responsible for the late rental payments, the fees or insurance.

Just before Memorial Day, Berube said, Ortiz had flat screens and the cash register removed from Monstah Lobstah.

That left him with no way to operate the business.

"The next day I was closed," Berube said. "I've been in business 13 years. I feel like I have a good business. I'm going to bounce back."

Since 1999, Berube has owned Monstah Lobstah restaurants in north Hillsborough, S Dale Mabry Highway and three food stands at Tropicana Field, but the restaurants and food stands have all closed.

While Berube searches for a new location, he said, he's trying to stay in business through catering and special orders. On Tuesday, he told his store's 5,234 Facebook fans he was available to serve parties of between five and 200 customers.

"I will personally be cooking for you, your friends, and your family," he wrote. "My team and I will cook them, crack them, de-shell them, and serve them to you and your guests."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3368.

Clarification: Allen Berube did not have an ownership interest in the Monstah Lobstah location at 1901 W. Platt Street, Tampa, Florida. A story published in the Times on June 8, 2012, and online on June 7, 2012, was unclear on that point.

Comments
An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

It began, as so many plane debacles seem to, with strange sounds in the bathroom.They were the noises of Jason Felix, one of the passengers on Wednesday’s American Airlines flight out of Saint Croix, according to a FBI affidavit recounting events lea...
Published: 05/26/18
Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Is the Lightning’s Jeff Vinik the best owner in professional sports?

Hope of another Stanley Cup has dissolved, and soon the ice will follow. Yet even if sorrow is the price of devotion, the true hockey fans will still buy in when the next season comes around.That concept may not be unique to Tampa Bay, but it does se...
Published: 05/26/18
Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Five members of 69ers motorcycle gang indicted on federal charges

Last year three members of the 69ers Motorcycle Club gang were implicated in the execution of a rival gang leader in the middle of rush hour traffic in Pasco County.Now those three and two other 69ers members have been indicted on federal charges tha...
Published: 05/25/18
With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

With makeover, ZooTampa at Lowry Park takes a page from the theme parks

TAMPA — Behind the construction walls near the carousel at ZooTampa at Lowry Park, hammers, saws and power drills made a racket in the blazing Friday heat. A raft full of 100-pound water jugs took test trips on the new Roaring Springs ride set ...
Published: 05/25/18
U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

U.S. news outlets block European readers over new privacy rules

LONDON — U.S. news outlets including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Orlando Sentinel and The Arizona Daily Star abruptly blocked access to their websites from Europe on Friday, choosing to black out readers rather than comply with a ...
Published: 05/25/18
Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

Tampa Electric appeals OSHA findings for October accident

TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co. is appealing a recent citation by federal regulators. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration hit the utility with a $76,050 fine and a "serious" violation in April following its investigation into an accident in ...
Published: 05/25/18
Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Fiat Chrysler recalls 4.8 million cars, warning owners: Don’t use the cruise control

Associated PressDETROIT — Fiat Chrysler is recalling 4.8 million vehicles in the U.S. because in rare but terrifying circumstances, drivers may not be able to turn off the cruise control. The company is warning owners not to use cruise control until...
Published: 05/25/18
Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Federal Reserve chairman warns his agency must be free from political pressure

Associated PressFederal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Friday that the Fed’s independence from political pressure must be respected if it is to succeed in controlling inflation, maximizing employment and regulating the financial system. His re...
Published: 05/25/18
Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Restaurants like Ford’s Garage use the experience to get you in the door

Tim Butler’s first car was a Ford Model A pick-up truck — a pearl fawn and cherry red pick-up he got his senior year in high school from his dad, who renovates antique cars. That’s why as Butler waited for a table at the Ford’...
Published: 05/25/18
St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

St. Petersburg man fined $507,513 in penny stock scheme

TAMPA — A St. Petersburg man was fined $507,513 and permanently barred from participating in the offering of a penny stock in a case involving a scheme to manipulate the price of Aureus, a penny stock company incorporated in Nevada, officials said Fr...
Published: 05/25/18