Other restaurants interested after Ezra passes on move to downtown Bradenton

BRADENTON -- Downtown Development Authority officials are fielding calls from restaurant owners interested in moving to downtown Bradenton after the owner of Ezra Cafe on Tuesday turned down $250,000 to help her relocate there.

“We have several restaurants interested,” said Will Robinson, the authority’s chairman, Wednesday as he awaited a Bradenton City Council meeting at City Hall.

Robinson said the DDA has not yet made a decision about what to do with the money turned down by Donna Eason, Ezra’s owner, who said she had decided not to relocate downtown after hearing feedback from customers and fellow business owners.

“Based on their response, I am not confident that I will have the support of my customer base to be successful at this location,” she wrote in an e-mail released Tuesday.

Robinson said the authority board would “take a step back” for perhaps a month or two, and draw up formal parameters for restaurant and retail incentives.

Once that is done, any incentive offers will be presented during a workshop or formal council setting to avoid a repeat of the controversy involving the Ezra Cafe, Robinson added.

Some Bradenton City Council members complained they were not notified of the negotiations before the DDA voted to approve the subsidy offer earlier this month.

The authority offered Eason $250,000 to cover rent and construction subsidies to ease the relocation of Ezra from its current spot at 5629 Manatee Ave. W. to the SunTrust building, 1001 Third Ave. W.

The offer was contingent on Eason signing a lease with the building’s owner, Third Avenue Associates.

The deal came together after Ron Allen, president of NDC Construction and a managing partner of Third Avenue Associates, recruited Ezra to move into the space formerly occupied by a cafe.

Allen and his partners wanted to bring another fine dining establishment to downtown Bradenton.

He still does.

“We’re exploring other opportunities at this moment,” Allen said Wednesday.

He contended that restaurants play a central role in re-development efforts.

“I’m a firm believer, if you look at all the studies -- restaurants play a key component,” he said. “We’re bullish on restaurants, and would like people to have more opportunities to come downtown.”

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