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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

Nightmare continues for Cafe on the Beach

A two-month remodeling project for the Cafe on the Beach at the Manatee Public Beach has turned into a seven-month nightmare for operators of the popular facility along with the many visitors and locals who frequent the establishment.

Manatee County, owners of the building, closed the facility in late August 2004 for an estimated $600,000 worth of improvements and upgrades. The project was originally scheduled for completion in November, but four hurricanes that struck the area between August and November pushed the completion date back to Dec. 15.

Unfortunately for Cafe on the Beach and Beach Gift Shop operator Dee Percifield - along with the legions of faithful patrons of the establishment - Dec. 15 came and went without completion. At that time, county officials said the building would be ready in two weeks, but it wasn't.

The Beach Gift Shop opposite the indoor dining room and the Pancake Shack, which is outside the main building, were able to reopen in December, but crews are still working on the interior. Cafe on the Beach has been allowed to operate out of a portable trailer for sandwiches and other short-order items.

Percifield praised everyone involved in the project and said county officials and the contractor, Delesline Construction of Palmetto, are doing their best to finish everything. But she admitted it's hard for her to realize that more than half the winter season has already been lost.

"They said maybe they'd be finished by March 1. Now, it's March 15. I don't know. I know they're doing their best, but it's hard on everyone associated with the restaurant."

Indeed. Nearly the entire 40-person staff with the restaurant in August has departed, leaving Percifield and her associates the task of rebuilding the work force when she gets the go-ahead to fully move back.

She said she's been assured by the county that their work is "almost finished," and they'll complete everything in about a week. After that, however, the Holmes Beach Building Department must issue a certificate of occupancy before Percifield can return to the premises.

"Even then, we still need one or two weeks to get ready. I'm just hopeful we can be ready for Easter (March 27). We've just got to be open for that," she said.

But that's not likely, according to the pace of work at the site.

An inspection of the building revealed work has just begun on remodeling the kitchen, and only the handicap bathrooms have been completed. Workers at the site said they had no idea when they would be finished and referred further inquiries to county officials. One local contractor who recently viewed the site suggested it would take at least another month to complete all repairs, install the equipment and get the necessary inspections.

Efforts to reach Charles Bishop or Sam Love of the Manatee County Facilities Department for comment on when the building will be ready for occupancy were unsuccessful by press deadline.

Holmes Beach Building Official Bill Saunders said the county has not yet applied for a certificate of occupancy for the restaurant to resume operations.