If a restaurant could compare to the popular show “Cheers” where everybody knew your name, chances are it would be Nicki’s Restaurant at 1830 59th St. W. But in November, the eatery and lounge closed its doors without warning its customers or employees.
A Facebook page run by a former employee of the restaurant gave the only notice with a post on Nov. 7 that read, “It is with a heavy heart and much sadness that I write this post. As of today, Nicki’s Restaurant is no longer open. We want to thank all of our loyal guests, staff and entertainers for their wonderful support over the years. We here at Nicki’s will miss and cherish all the wonderful memories.”
Just two days prior to that post, the page announced the restaurant’s entertainment for Nov. 5. The Nov. 7 message received mixed reactions from employees questioning when, or if, they would get paid, to customers expressing sadness and shock over the news.
I’m just worried about them. I haven’t seen them since it closed.
Kurt Jolly, owner of Jolly Arts Studio
The reasons behind the closing weren’t discussed, but last week a notice from the Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office showed that the owners, Tim and Jennifer O’Brien, owe more than $2,000 in back taxes. The building is owned by Alpha Medical Land Corp., but as tenants, the O’Briens are responsible for taxes on the inside equipment.
Around the corner from Nicki’s is the Jolly Arts Studio. Owner and “Chief Happiness Officer” Kurt Jolly said everyone was surprised by the sudden closure, but they knew Nicki’s had been struggling financially for the past few months.
“I’m just worried about them,” said Jolly. “I haven’t seen them since it closed.”
The O’Briens couldn’t be reached for comment, but the loss of the restaurant, which operated for 35 years —and about 25 under the O’Briens — is being felt. Leslie Hinsz Marron, who operates Parties by LeslieSRQ, one of the largest and most popular meetup.com groups in the area, said she was sad to hear the news.
I was saddened to hear the rather abrupt announcement that they were closing.
Leslie Hinsz Marron, owner of Parties by LeslieSRQ
“Nicki’s on 59th was the quintessential neighborhood gathering place,” Marron said. “Yes, on any given evening, you would see a rather mature clientele, but who obviously found comfort and enjoyment of coming together to socialize. I discovered it rather recently, as I noticed a musical friend was performing there and I was hooked.”
Marron holds events at many area nightlife businesses and said she knows the challenges of running a profitable venue.
“Yet Nicki’s was always packed those evenings I dropped by,” she said. “I was saddened to hear the rather abrupt announcement that they were closing. It had a rather private club atmosphere, and I hope that those people who relied upon it as a place to gather find another suitable venue to continue to enjoy each other’s company, good food and music.”