PALMETTO -- Word is they got the blues in Palmetto, and it's got nothing to do with the Annual "Palmetto Blues Festival" held at Kojaks, the venerable local rib joint.
It's just the opposite.
Kojaks Palmetto Ribhouse is set to close for good on April's Fool Day says owner Joe Forney, and it's no joke. "Money is very tight, and despite the fact that I have pretty good credit, and that we've been here for 11 years," Forney is "unable to get any credit" to support Kojaks' cash flow needs.
"After 10 years, I went to my bank and asked about a Small Business Administration loan, or something, anything like that and they just laughed and told me 'we don't do that kind of lending.'" Forney declined to name the bank other to say "they're local. What bothered me the most is that they didn't even bother to ask for the business' P&L or a tax statement."
The news came "as a shock to the employees" said Bradenton resident April Holmes, 32, a mother of two, who has worked full-time at Kojaks for two years. "I hate that we're closing down and am not quite sure what I'm going to do afterwards. The tips and customers here were more than good, they were great."
"Kojaks has seating for 150, including 40 outside and a steady clientele," said Forney, "but we just could not get past 'simply sustaining' level" without access to working capital. Forney, 54, said it came down to not wanting to "kill himself" working alongside his wife and partner Veronica, "for up to 16 hours a day."
When the Palmetto property's lease at 1631 8th Ave. W. came up for renewal on June 1, 2013, "we just decided we were pretty tired overall, and personally, I'm sick of eating ribs everyday, which I've done since I was 19 when my family opened the Tampa Kojaks," which remains open and is owned and operated by Joe Forney's mother and brother Chris.
In addition to sponsoring annual Spring and Fall Blues Fests and Auto Show events, Kojaks also offers event catering. Tom Holmes, 65, has been a "regular since they opened," noted that Joe and Veronica have helped the community frequently, "for the last three years they have assisted in fundraising for the (Ellenton-based) Men's Auxiliary Post 9226" of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "They make you feel like family, and as far as I am concerned, they are part
of Palmetto History. " On a scale of ten, their ribs get a "solid nine" said Holmes, a "retired former City of Bradenton employee for 35 years."
"There's not much we can really do or say" said Holmes, who wistfully noted her first day of unemployment will likely be the day after her employer closes, one day after her 33rd birthday on April First. "It's not too funny," she said.