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Fisherman Joe’s closing a real shame

Say it isn’t so.

Fisherman Joe’s is closing its doors by May 1 because its lease is not being renewed by the landlord?

Whoa!

After years in the doldrums, Old Main Street seems to be on the cusp of revitalization and one of its mainstays isn’t going to be part of it?

There’s something wrong with that picture.

Fisherman Joe’s is Old Main Street.

That Bradenton city leaders are encouraged by the changes happening downtown is all well and good. But at what cost?

Losing one of downtown’s landmarks is not what I call progress.

Nor is losing a good man who was loyal to that same vision, pouring everything he had into his restaurant to reach it.

Joe McDonald is Bradenton. Earnest, friendly, hard working, a big-hearted restaurateur who always made you feel welcome.

It is one of my favorite stops.

We go into Fisherman Joe’s, sit at the bar, shoot the breeze with friends and watch a Rays’ game on TV.

Joe McDonald gave back, too. Two weeks ago there was a big benefit bash up the street at The Lost Kangaroo for 2-year-old Jake Kerrigan, whose dad Bill has been incapacitated by a severe stroke.

McDonald cooked and donated food for the event.

On a Sunday.

His day off.

It appears McDonald will have a lot of time off beginning May 1.

That landlord John DeLesline Jr. decided not to renew Fisherman Joe’s lease is his prerogative.

If DeLesline is bringing in another tenant whose business is going to be a major upgrade and give him more return on his investment, that is his right.

Business is business.

I get it.

I just don’t like it.

Joe McDonald has been on Old Main Street for 19 years, most of them in the smaller spot next door now occupied by The B’towne Coffee Co.

He has hung in there through thick and thin.

He was there before the Woodring family took over Lost Kangaroo and before Fav’s, two other popular establishments that help make downtown a destination.

McDonald was a tenant for two decades, but it doesn’t buy some him goodwill?

Especially after he spent $65,000 of his own money fixing up the joint and bringing it up to code?

That McDonald fell behind on his rent is hardly unique in this economy.

Yet he didn’t fold up shop, a familiar scenario in these sorry times.

He got caught up on his rent -- and gets shown the door. It stinks.

DeLesline is taking a real gamble here.

Fisherman Joe’s was integral to the synergy that existed on Old Main Street.

Whether the new tenant duplicates that is questionable.

What if this individual can’t cut it?

What if he doesn’t have the steadfastness and doggedness of Joe McDonald and bails after a year?

Starting up a new restaurant is a volatile proposition.

I’m reminded of one of restaurateur Sean Murphy’s favorite lines:

Want to make a million in the restaurant business?

Start with two million.

Old Main Street without Fisherman Joe’s?

Say it isn’t so.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin Mannix at 745-7055 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com.

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