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ATTORNEY GENERAL McCOLLUM APPLAUDS COLUMBIA RESTAURANT FOR PROTECTING CONSUMERS
05/04/2007

Office of the Attorney General
Bill McCollum
Attorney General of Florida

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release - May 4, 2007
Contact: Sandi Copes at 850.245.0150
Sandi.Copes@myfloridalegal.com


McCOLLUM APPLAUDS COLUMBIA RESTAURANT FOR PROTECTING CONSUMERS
~ Columbia Restaurant has taken steps to safeguard patrons ~

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today commended the Columbia Restaurant for taking a proactive approach towards protecting consumers from deceptive marketing. The president of the Columbia restaurant group issued a statement assuring consumers that Columbia restaurants would serve grouper only if they could ensure the fish was in fact grouper and not a less-expensive substitute.

“By taking this initiative, Columbia Restaurant has exemplified professional responsibility, and for that I commend their action,” said Attorney General McCollum. “By taking this positive step towards protecting Florida consumers, these restaurants lead by example.”

"We will never compromise our family''s name and reputation by serving our guests any kind of substitute item. If we say it is grouper, it will be grouper caught in Florida," said Richard Gonzmart, President and 4th generation family member for the Columbia Restaurant Group.

"My family would like to thank the Attorney General, Bill McCollum and his office for their efforts in looking out for consumers in Florida," said Andrea Gonzmart, 5th generation family member for the Columbia Restaurant Group.

Last October, the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division began investigating allegations that Tampa area restaurants were advertising grouper on their menus, but were substituting less expensive fish to the customers while continuing to charge them for grouper. Investigators collected samples from more than 20 restaurants and sent the specimens to a St. Augustine lab for DNA testing. Upon receiving results that tested negative for grouper, 17 separate investigations were launched into the alleged fish substitutions. To date, investigations are ongoing and several restaurants have reached settlements with the Attorney General’s Office.

The Columbia Restaurant has stated it will offer grouper only if the entire fish is received from its supplier, not just a fillet, thus ensuring the restaurants are serving what is listed on the menu. Columbia Restaurant locations include the flagship restaurant in Tampa’s Historic Ybor City, St. Armands Circle in Sarasota, the Historic District in St. Augustine, Sand Key on Clearwater Beach and in Central Florida''s town of Celebration.


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