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BB pier restaurant behind on lease payments

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant on the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach is in financial trouble after city commissioners learned the business owes the city $50,000 in back rent. Islander Photo: Mark Young

Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant on the Bradenton Beach Historic Bridge Street Pier is about $50,000 behind in rental payments to the city.

The debt was revealed at the March 21 city commission meeting.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said the restaurant is a “number of months” behind in rent payments and that the lease agreement between the restaurant and city expired in July 2012.

Perry said the agreement contains a renewal clause, “but it has not been extended,” and is now on a month-to-month basis.

An auditor’s review of city revenue recommends immediate action by the city to address the loss of revenue and, Perry said the state does not allow a municipality to extend credit.

Dave Russell, Rotten Ralph’s concessionaire, accepted responsibility for the lack of payments. He said the restaurant fell behind on payments and he has been unable to catch up because the city does not allow partial payments.

“It compounds the problem,” he said.

Russell offered the city to accept restaurant equipment and furnishings in lieu of past due payments, with an option to purchase the equipment back from the city when he is able to do so.

However, there are existing liens on the equipment.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse asked how long it would take to resolve the liens and Russell said two to three weeks. Gatehouse asked Perry if it was possible to make such an agreement.

Perry said she discussed the offer with Russell, but it was not an option because of the liens. She said if the liens are cleared, “We would still need to establish an independent appraisal of the value of the furnishings and equipment.”

Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Gay Breuler opposed accepting equipment in lieu of back payments owed to the city, saying such an action was irresponsible to taxpayers and would not resolve the overall problems at the restaurant.

Gatehouse said it was reasonable to allow Russell two weeks to resolve the liens and to bring the matter up at the next meeting.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to allow Russell until the April 4 commission meeting to clear the liens and come up to date on the lease payments.

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