Panama Hattie’s cleans up act

By Erica Andrew |
Photo by Erica Andrew

As I stood outside Panama Hattie’s, I was approached by an older gentleman who asked me if I knew how long this restaurant had been there. I replied that I had no idea, but I regularly attended their “Sink or Swim” on Thursday nights. The man went on to explain to me that when he was my age (he looked as if he was in his late 50s early 60s) he used to come to this bar for a beer back in the ’70s.

Where the pier is located, there had been an amusement park and a restaurant sitting on the beach. The establishment was old and has been here for a very long time.

This might be able to explain the many problems that Kurt Tobuck, co-owner of Panama Hattie’s, has to face on a daily basis and why the restaurant recently received so many health code violations.

According to the Florida Department of Health, Hattie’s received 33 health code violations. The Florida DOH cited Hattie’s for 22 critical violations and 11 non-critical violations.

“It’s just old equipment, and everything that they asked us to do is being fixed,” said Tobuck. “We corrected nine on site and have fixed 18 of the other problems so far.”

Panama Hattie'sPhoto by Erica Andrew

Tobuck, along with five others, are all Flagler alumni. They are familiar with the area and realize that they are more scrutinized than other restaurants in the area because they do take on a large part of the nightlife in St. Augustine.

Tobuck said all his employees eat at the restaurant and that he welcomes anyone to come in and take a look at all the improvements the restaurant has made.

Tobuck recognizes Hattie’s needs a face lift and is “trying, no matter what, to borrow ever dollar so the presentation looks better.”

The DOH violations included a refrigerator that could not hold temperatures sufficient for food that needs to be kept cold, but as Tobuck explained, that was from a broken thermometer, the refrigerator wasn’t actually broken. Cockroaches were found, however the place had been sprayed for insects just a few days earlier, which would explain the dead insects found at the establishment. Other violations included a “No hand washing sign provided at a hand sink used by employees,” which the DOH cited as a critical violation.

Overall, Tobuck said he and his employees are enthusiastic about having more events at Hattie’s and look forward to the many renovations that have already begun taking place.

Hattie’s will continue to remain one of St. Augustine’s most popular night life spot and it will spend more time making Hattie’s not only look better on the outside, but on the inside as well.

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