Crab Hut must move by May 17

PALMETTO BEACH- The owner thought she could stay until July.

Published May 4, 2007

Crab Hut owner Patricia Davis knew she'd have to move her business soon. Just not this soon.

Developer Gary Gauthier, who plans to buy the property, told Davis she could stay through July, she said.

But the plan has been accelerated. Gauthier wants the seafood market, which has been here 29 years, out by May 17.

Davis has a month-to-month lease on the property with owners Lori Carrillo and her brother Freddy Hevia. But the landlords say Gauthier instructed them in mid April to terminate Davis' lease.

"He told me they needed to be out within 30 days because he wanted to put up a trailer and some signs there, " Carrillo said.

Hevia said Davis should not be surprised, since Gauthier originally planned to close on the property as early as last December.

"This has been an ongoing thing that she was on standby, " Hevia said. "There have been some extensions along the way, but now Gauthier needs to move quickly on this property.

Gauthier did not return calls for comment early this week.

The landlords said they did not recall Gauthier telling them the seafood market could remain specifically through July.

"I love Trish to death, and I feel bad about everything going on, " Carrillo said. "But we've got to sell it. We have a struggling business, and we need the money."

Hevia said they've been losing money on the property for a long time. Davis pays $1, 200 in rent, he said, while the mortgage payment is $2, 600. Gauthier has paid the rent for the next several months and plans to close on the sale soon, Hevia said.

Davis and her family have been working on preparing a new site for the Crab Hut, though details have not been hammered out. Now she might have to expedite the move from 1002 Bermuda Blvd. Davis has retained a lawyer to see what her options might include.

"It's tough, because we were getting everything together for the end of July, " Davis said. "It's been a really stressful time."

Carrillo said the change may be a "blessing in disguise" for the Crab Hut, which could easily be destroyed by a hurricane in its waterfront location.

Gauthier plans to build a condominium complex, Bermuda Vista, across the street from the property where the Crab Hut sits.

He hasn't said what he plans to do with the Crab Hut property. But Gauthier, a Christian radio talk show host, did tell the Tampa City Council he plans to build a church in the area.

The development remains in the zoning approval process with the City Council. Last week, Gauthier and other Bermuda Vista representatives pressed the council to approve the project with security gates included.

Most council members indicated they were in favor of the project, given a few small tweaks. The issue was continued to the May 10 council meeting.

Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or 226-3431.