CORTEZ – The owners of the Fire & Stone pizzeria on Cortez Road hope to reopen their restaurant as early as this week.
When reopened, the renovated Fire & Stone restaurant will feature the same menu that has long-included its signature all-you-can-eat pizza buffet, but there will additional seating on the outdoor patio and more parking spaces and new golf cart parking spaces in the reconfigured parking areas. The formerly cash-only establishment will also now accept debit and credit cards.
Owned by Radka and Peter Ross, the popular pizzeria closed temporarily last May in order to address Manatee County’s concerns about the grease trap system and also to address allegations cited in Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) inspection reports dated May 13 and May 14, 2019.
Last week, Peter Ross said a new grease trap has been installed to the county’s satisfaction. He also said he and his wife reached a settlement with DBPR in December and the state agency has redacted all of the alleged violations cited in those May 2019 inspection reports.
Ross emphatically reiterated statements he made last year in response to the allegation that the grease trap issue caused a slick in nearby Sarasota Bay.
The May 14 DBPR inspector’s report said, “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, which has now caused a slick in Sarasota Bay.”
Last week, Ross said, “The raw sewage in the bay did not happen. I never did anything that would hurt the environment.”
Regarding the settlement, Ross said, “The accusation of dumping sewage into the bay is gone, like it never happened, because it didn’t. They dropped everything.”
Attorney T.R. Smith represented the couple in the settlement negotiations and Chief Attorney Marc Drexler represented DBPR.
Dated Dec. 12, the stipulation and consent order of dismissal issued by DBPR says, “The amended administrative complaint is voluntarily dismissed, with prejudice.”
It also says, “Division as redacted and reissued the following inspection reports: May 13, 2019; May 14, 2019; and December 3, 2019.”
The Sun contacted DBPR seeking clarification as to what it means to have inspection reports redacted and whether that is similar to charges being dropped in a criminal case, which this was not.
On Friday, Jan. 10, DBPR Director of Communications Karen Smith provided The Sun with an email response that said, “The violations were resolved and removed from the inspection report pursuant to the settlement.”
The May 2019 inspection reports also alleged lesser violations pertaining to food handling and sanitary conditions. Although those allegations were also redacted by DBPR, Ross said steps have been taken to ensure those concerns do not arise again. The Dec. 3 inspection report posted at the DBPR website says, “No violations were observed.”
Fire & Stone is located at 10519 Cortez Road W. For more information about its anticipated reopening, call 941-792-5300.