Sunset Beach Tropical Grill in Fort Myers Beach faces nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in fines after a special magistrate hearing two weeks ago.
Sunset Beach Tropical Grill is popular at the beach, but now the owner of Sunset Beach Tropical Grill is being told he has to pay over $670,000 in fines based on a magistrate’s ruling during a special hearing.
Town officials claim the code violations are over the business’s parking lot and beach chair rentals. To say things got heated during the special magistrate hearing would be an understatement.
Sarah Spector is the attorney representing the restaurant’s owner and Myrnabelle Roche is the magistrate.
“But if these are the pictures that he saw…” Spector said.
“It doesn’t matter what the pictures are,” Roche said. “I can have zero pictures. And right now, his testimony goes uncontroverted.”
That’s attorney Sarah Spector trying to argue against the code violations levied against the Sunset Beach Tropical Grill. Compliance officers accuse the business of renting beach chairs and umbrellas without a permit. And violating the conditions of their special exception permit for commercial use of their parking lot.
“It has been a consistent issue that the town has been dealing with,” Roche said. “And he refuses to go ahead and acknowledge it or remedy it.”
Roche ruled that the business owner has to pay $670,000, saying that’s a $500 fine for each violation per day.
“Ms. Magistrate,” Spector asked. “May I ask the witness one more question?”
“No,” responded Roche. “I’ve already ruled.”
People on Fort Myers Beach were shocked to learn about the financial punishment coming down on the restaurant they frequent.
Matt Ward is resident in Cape Coral and has been to Tropical Grill.
“I think they need to work things out,” Ward said. “That’s way too much. Yeah, that’s trying to put somebody out of business there.”
Others feel that if the business owner is let off the hook, it could lead to other businesses violating the town’s codes.
“You let this go, then you know, the next place is going to do it,” Jesse Seigel from Ohio said. “You know what I’m saying?”
WINK News reached out to the business’s owner, Spector, Roche and the mayor of Fort Myers Beach for comment, but is still waiting to hear back. Roche says the fines will continue each day the business isn’t compliant to the tune of $500 per day, per violation.