Wednesday, December 13, 2017
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
Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Michael Sadeghpour was just 18 when he did his first flip.Using money saved from a job and borrowed from his grandmother, he bought a foreclosed condo in north Pinellas County for $67,000. He did some inexpensive renovations and flipped it for $125,0...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Career Q&A: Two bosses who don’t care for each other

Career Q&A: Two bosses who don’t care for each other

Q: I seem to be caught between two high-level managers who really don’t like each other. One is a director, the other is a vice president, and I am an assistant to both. Whenever the director stops by my desk to chat, she makes critical remarks about...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Nicko’s Fine Foods, classic diner and Seminole Heights icon, closes after six decades

Nicko’s Fine Foods, classic diner and Seminole Heights icon, closes after six decades

Nicko’s Fine Foods, known as the place Elvis Presley ate following a 1956 concert and Tampa’s last classic prefabricated diner, has shut down after more than 60 years in business.Owners Karen and Nicholas Liakos could not be reached for comment, but ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Ex-Facebook VP: Social media destroying society with ‘dopamine-driven feedback loops’

Ex-Facebook VP: Social media destroying society with ‘dopamine-driven feedback loops’

Washington PostA former Facebook executive is making waves after he spoke out about his "tremendous guilt" over growing the social network, which he feels has eroded "the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other."Chamath Paliha...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Illegal card skimmer discoveries in Tampa Bay double in 2017

Illegal card skimmer discoveries in Tampa Bay double in 2017

State investigators have discovered more than double the number of credit card skimmers in the Tampa Bay area in 2017 than in 2016 — with still a few weeks left in the year. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services found 54 skimmer...
Published: 12/12/17
French group to take over Westfield malls for $15.7 billion

French group to take over Westfield malls for $15.7 billion

Three Tampa Bay malls may soon be under new management. French real estate company Unibail-Rodamco has agreed to buy Australia-based shopping mall operator Westfield Corp. for $15.7 billion in cash and shares."Westfield would arguably be the best or ...
Published: 12/12/17
Tampa Bay’s mortgage delinquency rate crept up in September

Tampa Bay’s mortgage delinquency rate crept up in September

Times Staff WriterThe percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners who are late on their mortgage payments rose slightly in September, probably due to Hurricane Irma. According to CoreLogic, 7 percent of bay area mortgages were delinquent by at least 30 days c...
Published: 12/12/17
Unusual paddle design earns worldwide market

Unusual paddle design earns worldwide market

Paddling on the heels of the last supermoon of 2017, Phil Hughes navigated an uncommonly low tide off Dunedin through St. Joseph Sound on an effortless but lengthy glide.This is not easy water, nor an easy paddle, and could be especially daunting for...
Published: 12/12/17
Punit Shah’s Liberty Group building new Channel District hotel with Jameis Winston as limited investor

Punit Shah’s Liberty Group building new Channel District hotel with Jameis Winston as limited investor

TAMPA — Punit Shah’s Liberty Group announced plans Tuesday to start construction in January on a Channel District project that will include a Hampton Inn and Home2 Suites, both by Hilton, plus a Starbucks Coffee.Financing for the $40 million project ...
Published: 12/12/17
Creating PDQ from scratch: CEO of growing brand came from Bucs’ front office

Creating PDQ from scratch: CEO of growing brand came from Bucs’ front office

Shortly after leaving his job as chief financial officer of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to strike out on his own as an entrepreneur, Nick Reader wondered if he’d made the right move. "I probably had one of the coolest jobs in Tampa," said Reader, 42. Si...
Published: 12/12/17