Galati remodels restaurant, looks for tenant

The reported agreement Galati Marine in Anna Maria had with restaurateur Sean Murphy of the Beach Bistro in Holmes Beach to lease the former Rotten Ralph’s restaurant at the marina is no longer on the table, according to Chris Galati of Galati Marine.

Instead, Galati Marine, located at the mouth of Bimini Bay at 900 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria, has renovations under way and is actively seeking a new, experienced tenant, Galati said.

“We’re going to spend about $250,000 upgrading the restaurant, so that should convince any prospective tenant that we’re serious about having a quality eating establishment. It’s been awhile since it’s been renovated and we want to attract a proven tenant with the upgrades and remodeling,” he said.

He estimated the renovations will be finished by late February or early March.

“We’re hoping the new tenant will open in time to get in on the tail end of the season. It would be a shame for the restaurant to miss March and April,” he said.

Galati said he and his family did not want to wait until summer to begin renovations, even though the winter tourist season has begun in earnest.

The renovations include upgrading and improving the outdoor dining deck, where boaters can dock and visit the restaurant.

“The restaurant will still have open-air dining, and it will still have that Island look and feel that people love,” Galati said.

“We have no plans to run the restaurant ourselves, or hire someone to manage it,” Galati said. “We’re marina people, not restaurant people.”

Galati confirmed discussions with Murphy to lease the restaurant took place in December, but the negotiations were never finalized, prompting the new search.

Efforts to reach Murphy for comment were unsuccessful.

The Galatis had planned to renovate the restaurant in 2006 when the Russells’ lease expired. But a series of negotiations between Dave Russell, son of founder Ralph Russell, and the Galatis, resulted in a lease extension.

A restaurant has been at the location for three or four decades, Galati recalled.

Originally, called Fast Eddie’s, the restaurant later became the Casa del Mar, then the Oyster Steamer. In 1987, the restaurant was leased to Ralph and Doreen Russell, who changed the name to Rotten Ralph’s.

The restaurant soon attracted a following of locals and visitors with its tease of “rotten food and service,” while serving fresh seafood in a casual dining atmosphere.

Although Ralph Russell died in 2004, Dave Russell and Doreen continued to operate as Rotten Ralph’s until November 2010, when they closed the business.

The Russells operate Rotten Ralph’s restaurant on the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach under a lease arrangement with the city.

Dave Russell said he left the Anna Maria location to focus on the success of the pier location.