A huge interactive aquarium with 1,200 animals will open at the Galleria mall this summer, unless a lawsuit gets in the way.
A suit filed last week by PETA, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida and local activist Ana Campos accuses Fort Lauderdale of breaking its own rules by giving SeaQuest Aquarium a permit.
SeaQuest got its permit in February after telling Fort Lauderdale the interactive attraction with its 1,200 sea creatures, birds and reptiles would be more like a museum. The aquarium is expected to open in a shuttered Lord & Taylor store at the mall as soon as July.
The lawsuit, filed in Broward Circuit Court on March 6, argues that SeaQuest rebranded itself as a museum on paper because city zoning laws prohibit an aquarium from operating inside the mall.
Campos ridiculed SeaQuest’s claim.
“It’s literally a petting zoo in a shopping mall,” she said. “At the end of the day, Seaquest will never be confused for a museum. They’re trying to get around the city’s zoning laws. If a strip club said they were a bookstore maybe [the city] would have approved that too.”
Fort Lauderdale has not yet been served with the lawsuit, but Mayor Dean Trantalis said he and the city attorney have seen it.
“They want a judge to review the law and determine whether or not staff applied the facts of the case to the zoning we have,” he said.