LAKEWOOD RANCH -- After three years of unsteady business, Sandra Danu, a former competitive ballroom dancer, has decided to close the Sashay Dance Club.
"Not enough people came," said Danu, 71. "The costs are constant, and the audience isn't."
The nighttime venue, in San Marco Plaza at 8209 Natures Way, was never meant to be another ballroom dance studio. Danu wanted her club to be a place where dancers could come together, drink some wine and sashay the night away.
"I was trying to form a sophisticated social dance venue," Danu said. "I assumed that this was one of a kind and that there would be traffic."
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When Sashay opened in 2011, it was open four nights a week with a different theme each night. But attendance was slow and Danu, who ran the club by herself, had to cut hours to Friday and Saturday nights only. Still, the club was often empty and, in a last-ditch effort to survive, it operated on reservations alone.
Danu took $600,000 from her retirement fund to buy and design the 3,000-square-foot space, which included a small cafe. She pays $13,000 each year in condo fees, and on top of that, all the associated costs of owning a business.
Danu partially blames San Marco Plaza itself for what she calls a lack of traffic and an inability to gain attractive tenants.
"The plaza is both positive and negative in that it's charming because it is circular, but it's also very confusing to people," she said.
Patrick Johnson, co-owner of International Dance Fever, a dance studio diagonally across from Sashay in the shopping plaza, says his business is doing well despite San Marco's traffic woes.
"For (Danu), I think one of the main factors was staffing. She doesn't have the manpower," he said.
Carmen Spagnola, own
er of WineStyles, said he has drummed up most of his customer base through word of mouth. Rarely do people come in out of curiosity.
"I love the plaza. I love the location. But what amazes me is the perception that we're so far off the beaten path, because we're not," Spagnola said. "We're right off Town Center Parkway. ... We're right in the middle of Lakewood Ranch."
Spagnola blames the perception on the plaza's inability to lure attractive restaurants and retail.
"There was never an anchor or a big draw here," he said. "It's not like it's St. Armands where people go and walk around."
Danu, a Lakewood Ranch resident, is putting the Sashay space up for sale. Until it sells, the space will be available as a venue for private events.
"Now I don't know where to go dancing," she said. "I'm not ready to go back to a studio environment."
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.