TAMPA - Precinct Pizza in Channelside specializes in New York style pizza, except they're only delivering half the pizza they once could.
A couple years ago, the city turned their parking spots into a fire lane. The pizzeria had to lay off staff because delivery drivers had nowhere to park. They also quit advertising because they couldn't handle more orders.
"It's really hurt business a lot," said owner Rick Drury.
Drury doesn't have anyone to talk to, though, because he essentially has no landlord since the property foreclosed.
He hoped for change with Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's plans to bid on Channelside Bay Plaza.
But on Monday morning, Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke sent a letter to the Port Authority.
"Unfortunately, a significant legal hurdle that is beyond our control could not be overcome," he wrote.
It's a recent and dramatic turn of events, considering just last week Vinik reiterated his determination to control the plaza, and port officials spoke of a possible deal by year's end.
" We can't just keep fighting an uphill battle against legal obstacles we can't control," explained Bill Wickett. "At some point, push comes to shove a little bit and you have to say, 'Sorry but no more.'"
Officials trace the legal obstacles back to Channelside's former owner, the New York-based Ashkenazy Acquisition firm.
"The very same person that drove this into bankruptcy is now denying us the ability to move forward," said Mayor Bob Buckhorn. "We need to get that facility put back on the tax rolls. We need it to be productive. It's a lynch-pin for the Channelside area."
Buckhorn points to a contract loophole that gives Ashkenazy first right of refusal on any new deal -- and they've refused Vinik unless he dishes out more money.
"It's pure extortion," Buckhorn said. "That's exactly what it is."
Buckhorn calls Channelside's future the lynchpin for the entire area.
So does Drury.
"It's like we're in a tunnel right now and we saw light, but now the tunnel gets a lot longer. I really hope this is just a hiccup or a bump in the road," Drury said.
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