SOUTH TAMPA — Since it opened in April, CopperFish restaurant on Howard Avenue has received good reviews from patrons.
But the restaurant is going to have to sell a lot more steak and seafood to pay off its steep fines for city code violations.
The restaurant, which is owned by the same group that operates Boca Kitchen Bar and Ciro’s Speakeasy, owes the city almost $150,000 in fines, said Kevin Amos, a city code enforcement supervisor. And that amount is growing daily — by about $2,750.
Located a few blocks from Bayshore Boulevard, the restaurant was formerly the Latin-themed Samba Room, which replaced Ceviche tapas restaurant after owner Gordon Davis sold that brand. Davis, a South Tampa restaurateur, turned Samba Room into CopperFish after seven months of business.
That transformation is what got city officials’ attention, Amos said.
In addition to a complaint last year about an unlawful valet service — it resulted in a penalty of $750 a day — the city has fined CopperFish for violations that have to do with unapproved and unpermitted construction on the exterior of the building, Amos said. Those two violations each carry fines of $1,000 a day.
“It’s rare to see $1,000 a day unless they were just blatantly in violation,” Amos said. “That is pretty serious.”
Davis said the problems likely would be resolved by the end of this week. He said he is appealing to the code enforcement board.
He said the point of contention is stone that workers exposed when they removed a crumbling wall along the side of the building. He said he has told the Architectural Review Commission and historic preservation officials he will do whatever is needed to resolve the matter.
Amos said the remodeling was done without approval from the city and building inspectors. And because CopperFish is within the Hyde Park Historic District, the work also required approval from the Architectural Review Commission and the city’s historic preservation department, which the restaurant did not get, he said.
Lastly, officials say the restaurant violated city code by operating the valet service in the right of way in front of the restaurant.
The three cases went before a special magistrate in early August, Amos said, and the magistrate ruled CopperFish was in violation. Davis was given until Sept. 11 to comply with city code, or be charged the daily fines until the issues were resolved.
At last check, the restaurant had not made changes, Amos said. The next city inspection tentatively is scheduled for early December, unless inspectors are asked to come out earlier.