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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Ex-Bradenton Beach Fishing Pier franchisee files suit against city

A lawsuit has been filed by franchise holders of the popular fishing pier in Bradenton Beach against the city in the wake of damage sustained to the structure during Hurricane Frances on Labor Day weekend.

Karen and Jake Gallo, who hold the contract to manage the pier's restaurant and fishing operation, are asking for "all damages suffered, including lost profits and inventory," according to their attorney, William Lowe.

The Gallos' contract with the city was terminated through another clause in the franchise agreement with the city which allowed either party to end the relationship if substantial damage to the structure occurred.

Hurricane Frances ripped much of the roof off the restaurant portion of the pier, damaging the Gallos equipment and forcing closure of the restaurant. The fishing pier portion of the facility, at the east end of Bridge Street, is still open to the public, and repairs to the restaurant roof are expected to be completed within a few weeks. Roof repair costs have been pegged at $6,500.

"The franchise agreement called for the city to maintain the exterior of the pier and cafe and the roof," Lowe said, "and they didn't do it. There was significant storm damage, the city's roof blew off in part and did extensive water damage to the restaurant. The city decided rather than repair the structure to invoke another clause in the contract and discontinue the franchise.

"After listening to the minutes of the meetings," Lowe said, "I believe the city used the damage as a pretext to get rid of my clients as the franchisees. I don't believe it should terminate the contract at my clients' expense."

Lowe filed his lawsuit Sept. 30. The city's attorney handling the matter, Greg Hootman, has another week to appeal, something he told The Islander he intended to do.