Unable to reach a settlement over leases for the city-owned Pitt’s Slip property, two businessmen are taking the City of Pensacola to court.
Seville Harbour Incorporated – owned by Ray Russenberger – holds the master lease for the property on which Collier Merrill’s Fish House Restaurant and Atlas Oyster Bar are located as Great Southern Restaurant Group. The city claimed that the eateries owed more than five million dollars in payments dating back to the year 2000 when the lease was first signed.
Pensacola businessmen Ray Russenberger and Collier Merrill met with city officials in early December, on allegations they owed past-due sales royalties and interest on revenues from the Fish House and Atlas Oyster Bar restaurants.
At issue was the ownership of the building, not of the restaurants themselves, on a tract of city land called “Pitt Slip Marina.” Russenberger leased the property in 1987, then granted a sublease in 2000 to Collier Merrill and his partners – who formed Great Southern Restaurant Group.
The City of Pensacola has rescinded its claim to back royalties and interest, from two restaurants that are on city-leased property downtown.
City officials backed off their claims that Collier Merrill and his firm, Great Southern Restaurants owed more than five million dollars in default lease payments over the past 13 years involving the Fish House and Atlas Oyster Bar.
Talks to resolve the situation began on Monday. Merrill’s attorney Bruce Partington met with members of the private law firm Beggs and Lane, who represented the city, instead of City Attorney Jim Messer.