SEFFNER — A Bob Evans restaurant will remain closed for at least a few days after employees getting ready to open Sunday morning found large cracks throughout the building.
The restaurant, at 11720 Gateway Blvd. near Interstate 4, had no customers inside yet when the discovery was made. The employees were evacuated and no injuries were reported.
Authorities are investigating whether a sinkhole is to blame.
The restaurant will stay closed for at least two or three days, said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Nacole Revette.
The big cracks in the building's structure were visible inside and outside. Inside, the cracks ran along several walls, the floor and ceiling, but Revette said there is no active hole or opening.
An engineering team will run tests to determine whether a sinkhole or heavy rains are the cause. The restaurant sits by a retention pond, and the high amounts of rain in the last few days could cause a washout that's responsible for unstable ground and the cracks, Revette said.
People stopped by the restaurant Sunday morning concerned about a potential sinkhole.
Carole Shaffer said she is afraid her fiance and others who work at a gas station next to the restaurant could be in danger.
"I was here Friday having brunch," said Susannah Winters, who lives nearby. "There wasn't any problem then. But I wouldn't go back until they found out what it was."
The restaurant was scheduled to be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday, according to its website. The restaurant chain has eight locations in the Tampa Bay area.
The Seffner location is about 4 miles away from where a sinkhole opened under a home at 240 Faithway Drive in February, killing Jeffrey Bush, 37. The sinkhole continued to grow, leading to demolition of that house as well as those on either side of it.