Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

S Howard saloon sues Tampa over liquor sales denial

The Soho Saloon’s suit says the city is treating the bar differently from other bars. But some neighbors and city officials worry South Howard’s bar scene is oversaturated.


The Soho Saloon’s suit says the city is treating the bar differently from other bars. But some neighbors and city officials worry South Howard’s bar scene is oversaturated.

TAMPA — The Soho Saloon is suing the city of Tampa over a City Council vote to deny it a permit to pour mixed drinks along with beer and wine.

At 410 S Howard Ave., the saloon is surrounded by bars, including MacDinton's Irish Pub across the street.

But some neighbors and city officials worry that South Howard's bar scene is oversaturated.

And less than a week before the City Council's final vote on the request, police went to the saloon and found hard liquor in plain view, underage University of Tampa students with drinks in their hands and a small gambling pool taking bets on the Super Bowl.

But that is not what is at issue, according to the saloon's 50-page lawsuit, which was filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court. To bolster its case, the suit includes quotes from an assistant city attorney cautioning the council that it couldn't base a denial on the police allegations.

At the Feb. 7 hearing, City Council member Mary Mulhern moved for denial based on the saloon's request to the city to waive three rules. One requires 35 parking spaces, not the 16 the bar has. Another requires a city waiver when there are residences within 1,000 feet (the closest home is 33 feet away). The third requires a similar waiver when there are other stores, restaurants or bars selling alcohol within 1,000 feet (there are 17).

Every time the council approves more bars, Mulhern said before the vote, "We open the door for approving others." Her motion passed 4-3, with Mike Suarez, Frank Reddick and Lisa Montelione voting no.

At that same hearing, saloon owner Michael Disser apologized for what police found. He said the liquor was on the premises because the bar had a charity liquor license for Gasparilla and bought the booze in advance of that, but ended up selling much less than expected. He said investigators tried to buy hard liquor when they came in, but his staff refused to sell.

Disser also said the college students were carded and refused service, but did not explain how they came to be found drinking.

As for the gambling, Disser said he knew about it and, yes, he profited from it, but every bar in South Tampa was doing it.

Disser told the council he was not trying to increase his occupancy, but wanted to get more money from the customers he does have, and selling spirits is a way to do that. As it is, he said, he's losing money.

The council's final hearing followed a Jan. 24 initial public hearing at which Mulhern's first motion for denial failed on a 4-2 vote. Instead, at that meeting the council ended up voting to give its initial approval to the permit on the condition that the bar's kitchen remain open during all hours of operation.

Disser's lawsuit contends that vote of approval with that condition are the only things that should have been at issue on Feb. 7. The suit contends there is "no rational basis" for treating the Soho Saloon differently from other, similarly situated establishments. It seeks more than $15,000 in damages and a court ruling that it is entitled to sell liquor as well as beer and wine.

On Monday, City Attorney James Shimberg Jr. declined to comment on the suit.

Tampa lawyer Eric Page, who represents Disser, said the saloon remains open but is sustaining damages as a result of the city's decision.

"It's unfortunate that this is where we are," he said. "We're pretty much going to let the appellate process go forward and will seek the relief outlined in the complaint."

S Howard saloon sues Tampa over liquor sales denial 04/01/13 [Last modified: Monday, April 1, 2013 11:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up


    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28,

  2. Tampa Bay Times honored for top investigative story in Gerald Loeb annual business awards


    The Tampa Bay Times was a co-winner in the investigative category for one of the highest honors in business journalism.

    Tampa Bay Times current and former staff writers William R. Levesque, Nathaniel Lash and Anthony Cormier were honored in the investigative category for their coverage of "Allegiant Air" in the 60th Anniversary Gerald Loeb Awards for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. 


  3. Pasco woman gives birth to child fathered by 11 year old, deputies say


    A Port Richey woman was arrested Tuesday, nearly three years after deputies say she gave birth to a child fathered by an 11-year-old boy.

    Marissa Mowry, 25, was arrested Tuesday on charges she sexually assaulted an 11-year-old and gave birth to his child. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
  4. For good of the Rays, Tim Beckham should embrace move to second

    The Heater

    PITTSBURGH — The acquisition of slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria said a lot of things, most notably that the Rays are serious about making in-season moves to bolster their chances to make the playoffs, with a reliever, or two, next on the shopping list.

    PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 27:  Tim Beckham #1 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates with teammates after scoring during the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on June 27, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) 700011399
  5. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    A standing-room-only crowd packed a Midtown church banquet hall Tuesday to witness the first face-off between Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker in what is a watershed mayoral contest in the city's history.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.