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The Villages

Owner of shuttered BBQ eatery hopes to settle lawsuit filed by Fruitland Park

The owner of a defunct barbecue restaurant is hoping to settle a lawsuit brought against him by the City of Fruitland Park.

City Attorney Anita Geraci-Carver told commissioners Thursday night that Timothy D. Burke, owner of the now-shuttered Burke’s BBQ on County Road 466A, has submitted a settlement offer through his attorney. Geraci-Carver said she wasn’t at liberty to discuss the offer, which will be presented to commissioners in a closed session after their Oct. 8 meeting.

Burke’s BBQ, located at 311 County Road 466A, closed its doors in late July amidst an ongoing fight with the City of Fruitland Park over hooking up to the city’s water/sewer systems, installing a fire hydrant and paying impact fees.

The city filed suit against Burke in September 2019 after he failed to follow through with a 2012 commitment to eventually hook up to the city’s water and sewer systems, install a fire hydrant at the restaurant located at 311 County Road 466A, and pay significant impact fees. At the time, the initial source for fire protection at the eatery was a hose running from a swimming pool at a house located next door.

In October, attorney Lindsay Holt, of Crawford, Modica & Holt, had requested that the lawsuit be tossed out because of what appeared to be a technicality. She claimed the suit wasn’t valid largely because the city’s beef was with Burke’s Bar-B-Que Co., not Burke himself. She claimed that Burke signed the document in his capacity as a shareholder/owner of the business, not as an individual.

Holt also asked the judge to dismiss the complaint with prejudice, which would have amounted to a final judgment and prevented the city from amending the suit. Holt said any attempt by the city to “overcome this deficiency” or amend the complaint “would be futile.”

But in August the city scored a victory against Burke when a Lake County judge threw out the request for summary judgment. At the time, Ceraci-Carver labeled the judge’s ruling a victory and said the suit would proceed through the court system.

The initial decision to file suit against Burke was led by Commissioner Patrick DeGrave, who lives in The Villages portion of the city. He said in June 2019 that it was a fundamental issue for him and had nothing to do with who owned the property.

“You signed an agreement, honor the agreement,” he said at an August 2019 commission meeting. “I think that’s the message the city has to send any property owner. You come in and make a deal with us, expect to live up to the deal.”

In July 2019, Burke’s BBQ announced on its Facebook page that the restaurant would be closing. It followed up with posts announcing a going-out-of-business sale where the public and other restaurant owners were invited to attend and purchase supplies and equipment that was still inside the building.

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