TAMPA — A South Tampa businessman has sued Times Publishing Co. for libel over a recent story about the abrupt closure of a Monstah Lobstah restaurant on Platt Street.
In a suit filed this week in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Thomas Ortiz says the Tampa Bay Times story contained inaccuracies that held him up to ridicule and damaged his reputation as a businessman.
Ortiz has founded several South Tampa restaurants and was the landlord for the Platt Street Monstah Lobstah.
The story included information attributed to Allen Berube, who has operated several Monstah Lobstah restaurants in Hillsborough as well as three food stands at Tropicana Field. They were known for lobster rolls, crab cakes and other light fare but none is currently in business.
According to the suit, false statements included:
• That Berube had an ownership interest in the Platt Street restaurant.
• That Ortiz, as landlord, allowed the restaurant business to be affected by a foreclosure.
• That the business closed after it was gutted of much of its equipment, including the cash register.
Earlier this month, Ortiz also sued Cox Radio and Matt "Spice" Lloyd over similar statements by Berube.
Times Publishing is the parent company of the Tampa Bay Times. St. Petersburg attorney Alison Steele, who represents the company, said Wednesday the suit has no merit and Times Publishing will be moving to dismiss it.
"The story was true and did not defame Mr. Ortiz in any way,'' Steele said.