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Beauty and the Feast in Fort Lauderdale closes

A business dispute between Beauty and the Feast restaurant and the Atlantic Hotel and Spa in Fort Lauderdale has led to the popular beachfront restaurant’s eviction and an ongoing lawsuit.

With claims and counterclaims flying, the restaurant’s operators were given the boot on Feb. 6, according to court documents. The Atlantic Hotel and Spa is still operating a restaurant in the space, at 601 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., and intends to rebrand it. The operators of Beauty and the Feast, which opened in 2014, are suing the hotel’s owners for damages, claiming breach of contract.

Representatives for the hotel declined comment. When reached by phone, Steven D’Apuzzo of Society 8 Hospitality Group, which ran Beauty and the Feast, acknowledged his group was no longer on the hotel property, but declined comment on the pending suit.

In a motion filed Feb. 9, Society 8 says it was removed after the Atlantic Hotel “improperly” broke a 10-year management agreement. Society 8 says the Atlantic seeks to “squeeze [us] out and keep the profits … all in an attempt to take advantage of the successful business that [Society 8] has built.”

The hotel has seen three restaurants come and go in the past decade: Trina, East End Brasserie and now Beauty and the Feast, which won multiple honors in SouthFlorida.com’s 2016 Best of South Florida readers’ poll.

According to court documents, the trouble began soon after the 15-story hotel-condo changed ownership last year, taken over by its condo association. Society 8 claims it began getting shortchanged on payments because of retroactive bookkeeping changes, with the owners adding $15,000 in monthly costs. The Atlantic claims Society 8 was overpaid by more than $500,000 by the previous owners and that Society 8 improperly kept proceeds from unauthorized events.

Society 8 filed suit in November. In a response filed in February, the Atlantic claims that Society 8 broke numerous provisions of its contract and conducted improper gambling activity at the restaurant in December. Society 8 says another company’s holiday party at the restaurant on Dec. 16 included a charity casino night event, authorized by the hotel owners.

The lawsuit is set for a Sept. 11 trial before Broward Circuit Judge Barbara McCarthy, but efforts to resolve the dispute through mediation continue.

In the 2016 Best of South Florida poll, Beauty and the Feast won for Best Small Plates and Best Brunch. According to the hotel’s website, the restaurant is now called Atlantic Grill. Clicking on the menu link on Tuesday brought up a menu with a Beauty and the Feast logo.

Beauty and the Feast was awarded 3 ½ stars by former SouthFlorida.com restaurant critic John Tanasychuk, who praised chef Jeff Vincent’s Southern-influenced menu and vegetable dishes. Vincent went on to launch the food program at the Funky Buddha Brewery in Oakland Park.

Society 8 recently opened Park & Ocean, 3109 E. Sunrise Blvd., a restaurant at John Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale. D’Apuzzo says the group is about to launch an art-themed restaurant in Delray Beach, at the former site of its shuttered Solita & Mastino Italian Kitchen.

mmayo@southflorida.com, 954-356-4508. Follow my food adventures on Instagram: @mikemayoeats. Sign up for my weekly dining newsletter at SouthFlorida.com/EatBeatMail.

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