BRADENTON -- Almost three years after the landlord-tenant dispute at Tarpon Pointe Grill and Tiki Bar came to light, not much seems to have changed between the two.
According to a Facebook post on the restaurant's website, landlord R. Scott Tibbetts declined to renew Tarpon Pointe's lease because the restaurant is unsuccessful after five years in operation. Employees were informed of the decision Sunday. Now the 40 to 50 core staff must search for new jobs by Feb. 29, when Tarpon Pointe Grill and Tiki Bar will shut its doors for the last time.
Tarpon Pointe owners Bruce and Kim Bottorff designated family member Kelly Gotha as the spokeswoman regarding the restaurant's closing.
"Forbes magazine says eight out of 10 startups fail within 18 months," Gotha said. "Out of those who survive, the remainder fail within the next year. We have succeeded far beyond Forbes' definition of success and restaurants are even tougher." The family decided together, Gotha said, that it was not worth it to take Tibbetts' definition of success to court.
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Plans for future development on or around the Tarpon Pointe property, 801 Riverside Dr. E., have not been announced. Tibbetts did not respond to requests for comment Monday.
Carl Callahan, Bradenton city administrator, said the city still hopes to extend the Riverwalk through or around the property.
Before he spoke on the city's hopes for the Riverwalk, though, Callahan vehemently made clear that concerning Tarpon Pointe, he has "absolutely nothing to do with that."
"We set up an LLC (lim
ited liability company) six years ago before he ever entered into an agreement with Mr. Bottorff," Callahan said. "It is now an inactive LLC." Callahan was referring to Oak Hammock LLC, which was dissolved in September 2012 for failing to file an annual report, according to state corporate records.
Callahan and Tibbetts own another property together, a plot at 708 Fourth Ave. W. in Bradenton purchased in May 2000 for $16,500.
Tina Thurman, the Tarpon Pointe restaurant's kitchen manager, has worked at Tarpon Pointe for 1 1/2 years. She has about a decade of food service experience, but would like to get out of the industry to better care for her family.
"I'm the sole breadwinner for my family," Thurman said Monday during a shift at the restaurant. She and her partner have two children, two dogs, two cats and a hermit crab. Her son has medical issues that prevent Thurman's partner from working and handle his care.
"So I do all I can to make sure she can stay home with our family," Thurman said. "I'm glad we got the notice we did. I've worked places where we weren't given any notice."
Despite the fact Thurman will miss her Tarpon Pointe family, she remains upbeat.
"When one door closes, another opens, so I'm waiting for that next one to open and see what the next move is," Thurman said.
James Liggett and his wife, Amity, as well as their stepdaughter Genesis Middleton, work for Tarpon Pointe. Liggett said the news has caused his family "great anxiety."
"But I'm confident that we as servers can find another job in season," Liggett said. "Thank goodness it's February and not August or September. We're confident we'll find something, but we're disappointed because we love this place and our schedules coordinate."
It's difficult to find an employer that can coordinate work schedules like the Liggetts were able to at Tarpon Pointe. Although they've already received a couple of offers from restaurants in Palmetto and downtown Bradenton, Liggett said neither he nor his wife have accepted a new job yet.
The potential extension of the Riverwalk to Tarpon Pointe is still "in the planning phases," Callahan said. The city's goal would be to "make it a walk or bike path to link it to Third Avenue to get on across and back over to the other side," connecting the Riverwalk as it exists right now, the Villages at Riverwalk apartments and Riverside Drive east.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.