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Tropical Breeze Cafe wins big in yearlong dispute

DADE CITY — The heated legal battle between the husband of a city commissioner and his former tenant has ended in a settlement.

David Hernandez, whose wife, Camille, sits on the commission, reached an agreement with Tropical Breeze Cafe owners Edna and Luis Gonzalez on June 30. As part of the settlement, Hernandez will pay the Gonzalezes about $26,000, which includes almost $13,000 the Gonzalezes placed into a court registry for rent and utilities.

In July 2007, the restaurant owners filed a lawsuit against their landlord, Hernandez's business ANPM Enterprises. Commissioner Hernandez is the corporation's registered agent.

The lawsuit alleged the former site of the Tropical Breeze Cafe, 14129 Seventh St., was not being properly maintained.

The main problem was the air-conditioning, or lack thereof.

Temperatures in the kitchen hovered around 100 degrees last summer. Customers complained about the stifling conditions. A server passed out from the heat.

Hernandez didn't see the problem, according to the restaurant owners.

"He kept saying the air-conditioning was working perfectly, which it was not," said Edna Gonzalez. "After two months of sweating to death and doing nothing, we finally had to file a lawsuit."

Hernandez could not be reached for comment Tuesday. His lawyer, Amanda Uliano, said she could not speak about the case.

Just months before filing the lawsuit, Gonzalez was praising Hernandez's plans for renovating the building, which he bought for $680,000 in December 2006.

Tropical Breeze would move to the second floor, with expanded seating, a full bar and balcony with outdoor tables.

But the relationship went sour, Edna Gonzalez said, when she learned what her new expenses would be: $16,000 in monthly rent, and a total of $33,000 a month figuring in taxes, insurance and maintenance.

Her rent before was $1,600 for 1,500 square feet. She knew she couldn't afford the bump — even though the new restaurant would have 7,500 square feet.

"That's outrageous rent for Dade City," Gonzalez said.

The Tropical Breeze, which opened in 2003, moved to a new site a few doors down in November.

Hernandez's plans for the old building, which included a new Mediterranean exterior and an elevator in the center atrium, have yet to come to fruition.

The building currently appears almost vacant.

Helen Anne Travis can be reached at htravis@sptimes.com or (352) 521-6518.

Tropical Breeze Cafe wins big in yearlong dispute 07/08/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2008 8:41pm]
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