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The Colony on Longboat Key sells off assets

LONGBOAT KEY -- A collection of tables sat bare Thursday morning at The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort.

Nothing but price tags and scratch marks adorned the tabletops in The Monkey Room, a once glamorous waterfront dining hall that has been shuttered with the rest of the 40-year-old Longboat Key resort.

The Colony, a condominium-hotel resort, closed its hotel, conference center, tennis courts and amenities in August due to a lengthy court dispute with its homeowner association over maintenance expenses. The Colony filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.

Now almost all of the major contents of The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort -- known for fine dining and celebrities which included President George W. Bush the day before 9-11, Jimmy Carter, James Taylor, Molly Ringwald, Arthur Ashe and Denzel Washington -- are for sale.

Among the items are restaurant furniture, commercial kitchen equipment, a baby grand piano, a concierge desk, a decorative giraffe chair and even a bird cage complete with finches.

“It’s sad to come here and see this being in the same business,” said Maurizio Colucci, owner of Primo Ristorante.

Colucci stood by The Monkey Room Bar with a cigar positioned between his index and middle finger and scanned the room for what was available. After purchasing some necessities for his restaurant -- catering trays and supplies -- he browsed for something more nostalgic.

“I’m looking for anything having to do with The Colony,” Colucci said.

The liquidation sale of The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort saw about 200 people in the first two hours it was opened to the public Thursday, estimated Frank Long, of International Content Liquidations Inc.

He expects a couple thousand will have shuffled through the 18-acre site by the end of the 14-day public sale.

“It’s going just as planned,” Long said. “We’re drawing a lot of people in the restaurant trade.”

The resort was developed by Dr. Murray Klauber in the late 1960s and has been managed by his daughter Katherine Klauber Moulton for the past 25 years. The resort has hosted more than a million guests, according to its website. But in recent years, the property fell into disrepair.

The proprietors of Libby’s Cafe and Bar kept Long busy Thursday morning. Steve Seidensticker and his son Joe Seidensticker went to Long with a request for tabletops and chairs for their Sarasota establishment.

Long knew immediately where to go. He escorted them to the high-rise resort across the way from The Monkey Room.

Upstairs on the dim and quiet second floor was The Colony Dining Room. In it, half of what they were looking for: large tabletops stacked against the wall.

“Can you hold these for us?” Steve Seidensticker asked. “Do you have any white folding chairs? I saw them on the site set up on the beach.”

Long knew exactly what he meant. The white folding chairs were typically used for guests at beachfront weddings at The Colony that cost up to $15,000, according to the website.

“Yes, we have about 100. Six dollars each,” Long said.

The Seidenstickers say the chairs and six drop leaf tables they purchased for $75 were a steal for their restaurant’s expansion plans.

“It’s a fabulous value,” Joe Seidensticker said, general manager and chief operating officer. “You can’t rent those chairs for $5.”

It’s unclear when The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort may reopen again, says Katherine Klauber Moulton.

That depends largely on the strategic plan that comes out of the condo association’s board of directors.

“They will determine what the best use of the property would be,” she said. “Certainly our hope would be finding a way of returning it to an active luxury resort.”

She expects the condo association’s strategic proposal could be completed in February or March.

The Klauber family still controls the recreation facilities and property and could be brought back to operate the hotel. Or, Klauber Moulton said the condo association could chose another hotel operating company.

“We’re very hopeful that in the not too distant future to return to being full service,” Klauber said.

“But it could take up to five years.”