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Fisherman Joe’s being forced out by May 1

UPDATE: At 11:02 a.m. today, Bradenton city officials e-mailed the agenda for the March 16 planning commission meeting. The first item: "Request of James Miller, agent for John Delesline, owner, to relocate lounge across the street from 425 Old Main Street to 424 Old Main Street, zoned UC."

Cork's Cigar Bar, operated by Miller, is located at 425 Old Main St.Blue Parrot Resortwear was located at 424 Old Main St.


BRADENTON -- Old Main Street might be losing a landmark.

Fisherman Joe’s will be forced to leave its longtime location May 1.

“I have to be out because of a new tenant,” owner Joe McDonald said Tuesday.

Fisherman Joe’s opened in the spring of 1992.

Back then, the Bounty, at the old Holiday Inn Riverfront, 100 Riverfront Blvd., featured a popular male revue during ladies night Tuesdays.

People line-danced to the Billy Ray Cyrus smash “Achy Breaky Heart” (daughter Miley Cyrus hadn’t been born quite yet) at the old Village Barn, 5520 14th St. W., Bradenton.

On Old Main Street, the Woodring family wouldn’t start pouring beer at the Lost Kangaroo for another year.

Almost a decade would pass until Fav’s Italian Cucina started serving stromboli, pizza and other homemade Italian dishes nearby.

“There were times in the early 1990s when the bartender at the ’Roo and me would stare at each other from across the street because we had no business,” McDonald said. “But somebody had to start it all and make the move to bring people down to Old Main Street at night and on the weekends.”

For the past 19 years, McDonald has rented from DeLesline Construction.

McDonald said during the past five or six years he spent approximately $65,000 bringing the establishment up to code and refurbishing.

John DeLesline Jr., of DeLesline Construction, owner of the two buildings on the west side of Old Main Street, starting at the alleyway north of Manatee Avenue West, completed facade renovations last year.

The Bradenton Downtown Development Authority agreed to contribute $30,000 from its Building and Site Improvement Program toward the $110,000 project, said Mike Kennedy, former director of the DDA, in June 2010.

Acknowledging he fell behind in payments while the renovations took place, McDonald said Tuesday, “Right now all of my rent is paid.”

DeLesline declined comment.

He confirmed, though, that another undisclosed tenant would move into Fisherman Joe’s space at 436 Old Main Street in May.

DDA officials have been taking calls from restaurant owners interested in relocating to downtown ever since Feb. 22, when the owner of Ezra Cafe turned down $250,000 to help her move there.

“We hate to lose any restaurant downtown and it’s too bad (McDonald) and the DeLesline family couldn’t come to an agreement,” Bradenton Mayor Wayne Poston said Wednesday morning “There are a lot of patrons that really enjoy Fisherman Joe’s.”

Will Robinson, the authority’s chairman, could not be reached for comment Tuesday regarding Fisherman Joe’s receiving any of that quarter-million dollars to stay in downtown Bradenton.

“Right now, between season and the stress of this, I just haven’t had the opportunity to go down there and meet with DDA officials,” said McDonald, whose sole source of income is Fisherman Joe’s.

Poston said he did not see a role for a DDA in helping McDonald stay downtown.

“It’s not the same issue at all. It’s apples and oranges," Poston said.

“It’s a business transition between a tenant and landlord. I don’t think the one has anything to do with another. It’s an entirely different situation," he said.

Neil Spirtas, vice president of public policy and small business for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, said, “It’s a sad day, if that’s the case, when we see a business like that leave downtown.”

Fav’s co-owner Mike Favasuli has spent the past 11 years catty-corner from Fisherman Joe’s.

“I hate to see anybody go, but especially Joe,” Favasuli said. “He’s a good guy and business neighbor.”

Fisherman Joe’s’ ties to The Lost Kangaroo go back the longest.

“It would be a shame to see him go,” said Lost Kangaroo (and River Roo) owner Robert Woodring. “He’s been here on Old Main Street exactly a year longer than I have -- we were neighbors for so long.”

McDonald remains unsure about what will become of Fisherman Joe’s after May 1.

“It’s pretty hard to finance the start-up of a restaurant,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to have to turn around and build another restaurant. I thought by now I’d be enjoying the fruits of what I helped start on Old Main Street.”

Fisherman Joe’s is a family friendly pub and grill offering seafood, hamburgers and wings. It’s arguably most famous for its $5.95 fish and chips.

It is also known for its late-night food. It serves food until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, the latest of any Old Main Street business.

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