TARPON SPRINGS — For two years, neighbors have complained about the new Jack Willie's Tarpon Turtle Grill and Marina on Lake Tarpon.
Over the past several months, they've repeatedly shown up at city meetings to plead for help with the noise, traffic and garbage the restaurant was generating.
City commissioners on Tuesday agreed the situation had gotten out of control and gave the go-ahead to City Attorney Jim Yacavone to take the matter to court.
Yacavone said he'll ask a judge to temporarily shut down the business until it complies with city codes and ordinances. At the request of City Commissioner Peter Dalacos, Yacavone also said he would research the possibility of revoking the restaurant's liquor license.
City officials said restaurant owner Don Alvino has been uncooperative by refusing to remove about 100 unpermitted seats from the establishment's deck, operating without the proper size grease traps and failing to show up for a code enforcement hearing in October. The restaurant is being fined $250 a day for the violations since a compliance deadline passed Oct. 31.
Alvino said Wednesday that he wasn't aware of the meeting in October, but wanted to work with city officials to remedy the situation.
"I just think we need to clear it up," Alvino said. "The whole thing has gotten blown out of proportion."
Alvino said he's having another grease trap installed to meet city regulations and is working on a revised site plan to deal with the deck seating.
At issue is seating capacity. In 2004, the city approved a 150-seat restaurant site plan, which did not include outdoor seating. At last count, there were roughly 100 seats on the deck, said city development services director Joseph DiPasqua.
"What we approved is not what we got," said Mayor Beverley Billiris.
But Alvino said his 240 seats match occupancy permits he received from the city fire department and state Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Neighbors say the additional seats have drawn more customers, which has created a nuisance.
Among their complaints:
• Late-night noise caused by amplified music on the deck.
• Revving motorcycles and fights in the parking lot.
• Litter blowing onto nearby properties and into the lake.
• Garbage and cooking odors.
• Traffic problems.
Gail Case, who lives next door at the Lake Tarpon Sail and Tennis Club, called the board's action a "small victory" in "an ongoing fight."
It's not the first time the city has asked a judge to intervene against an establishment.
In 1991, a Pinellas-Pasco circuit judge declared the Globe Club on South Safford Avenue a public nuisance and issued a permanent order closing it on Sunday nights when fights often broke out.
Rita Farlow can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4162.