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Date of Issue: May 07, 2008

Landmark restaurant to close

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Seafood Shack, Cortez

Ham Jones, owner of the landmark Seafood Shack in Cortez made a apologetic announcement Monday. “I’m closing for good after Mother’s Day.”

“We’re fighting a stacked deck that included a poor season,” said Jones.

His regrets center on two bridges closing, gas prices, employment woes and all that goes with operating a large restaurant in today’s economy.

This was the 38th year for Jones’ Seafood Shack on the Cortez waterfront and Mother’s Day will be the finale, the last day for the Shacks grill - grouper sandwiches, burgers, clam chowder, and other favorite entrees of his patrons will be no more.

“With the terrible economy, along with the planned closing of the humpback bridge after Mother’s Day, financial disaster is inevitable if we attempt to continue,” he wrote to his employees on April 30.

He does, however, hold open the door to reopen in November if the humpback bridge replacement and the October-November closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge are finalized.

“It is possible we would reopen around November,” he said, “if the property has not been sold.”

He bought the land in 1970 and built a 150-seat restaurant to which he added 215 more in 1976. Waiting lines were long, so in 1980, he tore down the old building and built a 700-seat replacement. Then he added the big paddlewheel Showboat that docked alongside the restaurant, which he eventually sold.

He had it all sold in 2001, but the next year took it back. Then in 2004, at the request of the supposed new owner, he closed the second floor dining room. That forfeited his earnest money and pulled out.

It’s been on the active market ever since - just in time to hit the market’s post-boom downturn.