Tensions boil over in Tampa City Council meeting
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08/20/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

A brief shouting match occurred during the Tampa City Council meeting this morning between Council members John Dingfelder and Joseph Catano.

The burst of emotion came during discussion for a wet zoning for a new Japanese steakhouse that intends to open on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, at the former site of Whaley’s grocery store.

Councilman Dingfelder did not attend the first hearing two weeks ago, where the Council initially approved the restaurant's serving beer and wine. But Dingfelder expressed concern because there was no specification about what time the restaurant would close.

Dingfelder said that unless the owners would come back, perhaps even later in the day, to specify their hours of operation, he couldn’t support the wet zoning.

But Councilman Joseph Catano said, with due respect, the issue could have been cleared up at first hearing if Dingfelder had been at the previous Council meeting.

Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena Said it was unfortunate that City staff hadn’t addressed the hours of operation.

But Russell Ottenberg, an attorney representing the restaurant in question, said that a delay would hurt the new business, which is scheduled to open in less than two weeks.

That prompted Councilman Dingfelder to say he couldn’t support the wet zoning.

But after Councilman Catano remarked for the 2nd time that Dingfelder was not at the first public hearing, Dingfelder responded in kind.

Commission Chairman Tom Scott then stopped the meeting to let cooler heads prevail.

The hearing continued without incident, and the restaurant received final approval for beer and wine by a 5 to 2 vote, with Dingfelder and Linda Saul-Sena voting against it.

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