CORTEZ – Fire & Stone Pizza owners Radka Watson and Peter Ross are working to address the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and Manatee County Code Enforcement violations that led to the popular eatery’s recent temporary closure.
On May 14, the restaurant was closed by order of DBPR. According to the DBPR inspection report, raw sewage was observed on the ground of the establishment in a 5-foot by 6-foot by 15-foot hole dug at the east side of the building.
“Per Manatee County Code Enforcement Officer Jorge Martelo, they required the operator to seal off all drains going out of the building, as the operator was pumping the sewage into a drainage ditch,” the DBPR report states.
The drainage ditch near the rear corner of the restaurant property connects to Sarasota Bay about 200 yards or so to the south.
The DBPR report says the situation has “caused a slick in Sarasota Bay,” but Ross disputes this claim.
Also listed in the report as a high priority violation is this: “Grease interceptor/trap removed, with grease and sewage overflowing onto the ground outside, to the east of the building. Rainwater has filled the area where the grease trap was located. Per owner, he is waiting on specifications from Manatee County before the grease trap can be replaced.”
The report also cites as violations dented cans of chickpeas, jalapeño slices and green olive slices, employees eating in a food preparation or other restricted areas, equipment in poor repair, floor tiles cracked, broken or in disrepair, an unused ice machine on premises near the walk-in cooler and sanitizing solution not at proper minimum strength.
A recent visit to the Fire and Stone property revealed two large, white, plastic containers in the rear parking lot. Ross said he hopes to use these containers as temporary above-ground grease traps if the county will allow it. There are also several trenches dug along the east side of the building.
“We were working with Manatee County and the Manatee County Building Department to resolve a structural issue with our grease trap. During that repair process, unfortunately, our grease trap collapsed,” Ross said when contacted Friday by phone.
“No sewage whatsoever was disposed into Sarasota Bay two weeks ago when they showed up. Manatee County had a complaint that raw sewage was being dumped into Sarasota Bay and it was causing a slick. A certified letter arrived from the Manatee County Environmental Department and that letter said there was a light sheen, which would indicate maybe a slight bit of oil on top of the water in the first 50 feet from our property and we had 10 days to fix it,” Ross said.
“Manatee County would not leave until we blocked all pipes that exited our building. I already voluntarily shut the business down and the cleanup was already happening. Being the diligent person she was, the inspector was told this had to be done according to Manatee County Code Enforcement Department,” Ross said.
When asked when he hopes to be open again, Ross said, “As soon as the Manatee County Building Official can give us a special exemption to use a temporary system – which is already located onsite – until a final system and long-term resolution can be installed underground or above-ground, whatever needs to be done to satisfy the county’s requirements.”