BRADENTON -- Come the end of March, downtown Bradenton will lose one of its sushi restaurants.
Harvey Lovejoy, owner of Izakaya Nazuka, decided he will not renew his lease and will close the Japanese cuisine restaurant less than a year after he opened last spring.
The reasons for Lovejoy's decision are many, he said.
"It's not cheap, and they need more recreational things down here," Lovejoy said. He suggested turning old, vacated properties like the Manatee Players Theater into a draft house and movie theater to bring more people downtown and give them options.
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"The only thing to do down here is go to a bar or go out to eat," he said. "We need more retail down here. They said they needed more restaurants and now there's more than they need down here."
During some events, such as the city of Bradenton's Main Street Live, Lovejoy said food vendors are placed in front of his restaurant and he often has to close because he has so few visitors.
Rick Willats, owner of O'Brick's Irish Pub & Martini Bar and The Grill at O'Brick's said the food vendors help downtown restaurants during extremely busy events.
"It's so busy down here; without food vendors, you wouldn't be able to feed all the people," Willats said.
With other events, such as the Saturday morning Farmers Market in downtown Bradenton, Lovejoy said he has success and sees his traffic increase.
"It's a different crowd," Lovejoy said of the Farmers Market. "They're not slinging back beers."
Bill Costanzo, owner of Café Barrister, said the Farmers Market also brings crowds to his business. Costanzo added five more members to his staff since opening in January.
Lovejoy moved into 417 12th St. W. and opened in April after Jeanne's Bistro decided to relocate down the street. Lovejoy said he hasn't seen much of the seasonal crowd downtown.
"Jeanne's moved when I moved because it was cheaper and she closed within six months," Lovejoy said. The chef who worked for Jeanne's Bistro when it reopened at 316 Old Main St., John Wood, told the Herald last May Jeanne's Bistro moved because the business was growing and
needed more space. Jeanne's Bistro closed in December and was replaced by Café Barrister.
"Everybody who doesn't succeed blames someone else," said Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston. "Other restaurants downtown aren't having an issue and they're doing very well. I don't think it's not enough people downtown. It's just somehow the way he is running his restaurant; not us."
Lovejoy is talking to others in the restaurant industry he's previously worked with about opportunities and is also considering moving to Bradenton's Village of the Arts. Lovejoy's main competition, The Fish, is a sushi restaurant and opened in December. The Fish took over the spot formerly occupied by Pub 88.
"We're sorry to see him go," said Jay Urevich, general manager of The Fish. "Any place down here is good for all of us."
Urevich agreed with Willats' line of thinking and said he finds it helps The Fish when food vendors set up in front of the restaurant. But Lovejoy's experience was different and he decided to cut his losses.
"It's very, very political down here," Lovejoy said of downtown Bradenton. "I try to keep my nose down and take care of my own business, but I just don't want to do it anymore."
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.