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City Named In Airport Restauranteur Lawsuit

Robert De Varona

Businessman Robert de Varona is taking the City of Pensacola to court, over a deadline for him to remove vestiges of his restaurant from its long-time space at Pensacola International Airport. A hearing on the suit is scheduled for later this week.

A letter from outside counsel for the city told de Varona that if the equipment wasn’t removed by midnight last night, an eviction lawsuit would be filed and the gear impounded at his expense. De Varona contends that violates his lease, which gives him 60 days – until May 30th -- to vacate.

De Varona is asking Circuit Judge Gary Bergosh for declaratory judgment in the case and to enjoin the city from evicting him or removing his property before the May 30th deadline. A hearing was originally set for Tuesday morning, moved to late afternoon, and then postponed until Thursday.

Mayor Ashton Hayward was not available for comment on Tuesday. In a written statement, he said the city would store Varona’s equipment at no cost for 60 days. De Varona’s attorney, Jesse Rigby, tells the Pensacola Independent News that no deal has been made. De Varona says the mayor’s jumping the gun if he thinks a deal is in place.

While there’s no agreement at this point, de Varona says the case is in the discussion process.

Plaintiff attorney Jesse Rigby also tells the I-N that there’s been direct contact with the mayor; City Attorney Jim Messer, or Airport Director Greg Donovan.

Mayor Hayward awarded the 10-year contract for food and beverage services at the airport to Missouri-based OHM concessions, after the City Council deadlocked in January on the issue. An attempt to override the award last week fell short by one vote. De Varona will keep a presence at the airport, as part owner of the facility’s news and gifts concessionaire. And he praises the work the new firm has done to set up shop.

The bottom line, says Robert de Varona, is that he’s hoping the Mayor will – quote – “come to his senses and back off,” – end quote -- so the matter can be settled amicably.