Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Clearwater mayor calls out pizzeria owner over code violation

CLEARWATER — The mayor had a message he wanted to send. Something was bothering him, so he made sure to let people know.

Twice during a City Council meeting Monday, Mayor George Cretekos called out a downtown business owner who serves on one of the city's boards but who has been at odds with code enforcement.

"It irritates me when a member of the Downtown Development Board is blatantly ignoring a rule and an ordinance of the city of Clearwater," the mayor said, "and is just violating our own ordinances even though he has been warned repeatedly to make corrections, and now we're having to bring him before the Code Enforcement Board.

"It's not responsible for a member of any of our organizations to thumb his nose at the ordinances of the city of Clearwater, and I hope that is conveyed to him posthaste."

Cretekos never mentioned anyone by name. So who was he talking about?

That would be Tony Starova, owner of Tony's Pizzeria & Ristorante. He's been cited by the city for having an ATM installed on the front of his pizza place at 428 Cleveland St.

The cash machine isn't allowed at that location. The ATM and the shielding around it protrude over the sidewalk public right-of-way, the city says.

A code enforcement officer issued the pizzeria a notice of violation after an inspection Friday. "Both property owner and business owner have been previously notified of this violation, yet it has not been corrected to date," the notice states.

Starova said Tuesday that he would have the ATM removed. He wasn't pleased that the dispute was being made public.

"We'll do whatever it takes to meet the code," he said. "We'll make it right."

His brother, Jimmy Starova, said an ATM company installed the machine and that the brothers simply thought the device would be convenient for their customers and for crowds at monthly Blast Friday events downtown.

"It's not our machine," he said. "They (the ATM company) said they would pull the permits."

The brothers, both Albanian immigrants, opened a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint on Cleveland Street in 2005. They barely survived an 18-month city streetscaping project that scared away customers.

In 2010, armed with a $50,000 city grant, they moved a block westward to their current location, across the street from the downtown Starbucks and the Capitol Theatre.

Business has been steady, so they've been expanding. Last November, they opened the Capitol Beer House next door at 422 Cleveland St., as well as a second Tony's Pizzeria location in downtown Dunedin at 320 Main St.

And Tony Starova got elected by downtown property owners to the Downtown Development Board, a seven-member body that helps make plans for improving the downtown.

It's Starova's membership on the downtown board that has the mayor holding him to a high standard when it comes to following the city's protocols. At Monday's meeting, the mayor made a reference to Starova's case a second time, an hour after he originally mentioned it.

Mike Brassfield can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.

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