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Date of Issue: June 02, 2005

Former Trader Jack's for sale - at $25 million
trader jack
Up for sale, way up
This photo shows the location of the former Trader Jack's restaurant, now being offered for $25 million by Mike Norman Realty of Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

Got a spare $25 million sitting around the house not doing anything? For that and the price of the doc stamps, you can own a piece of Island history.

Mike Norman Realty in Holmes Beach has listed the Bradenton Beach property formerly known as Trader Jack’s for sale for a cool $25 million. The property, now vacant, has more than 400 feet on the Gulf of Mexico and is located just south of the Gulf Drive Cafe.

The property became part of Island history when Gwynne "Trader Jack" Pearsall purchased the Mira Mar restaurant in 1968 and renamed it Trader Jack’s.

After extensive remodeling, many personal touches and the addition of a lot of nautical antiques, the restaurant soon became the Island’s favorite watering hole, in addition to attracting the rich and not-so-famous from throughout Tampa Bay.

Trader Jack’s was the first area restaurant to offer early-bird specials, and introduced an annual Halloween party, a St. Patrick’s day party, a Christmas in July party and an annual employee talent night.

A sign in the famous Wheelhouse Lounge said Trader Jack’s was "where everyone knows what everyone else is doing, but still reads the local newspaper to find out if they got caught at it!"

In 1977, Pearsall sold the restaurant to Vermont businessman Phil Fayette and moved to Madeira Beach, where he operated another restaurant until retiring in 1993.

Trader Jack’s had a few more years as the Island’s No. 1 attraction before Fayette ran into trouble with the I.R.S. and was forced to close the restaurant in 1985 following his conviction on tax evasion charges.

The property was auctioned off in 1986 and bought by the State of Vermont for $850,000. In 1987, an arson fire gutted the building and the remaining structure was demolished, leaving only the foundation.

Several years later, the property was purchased by George and Wendy Kokolis of Williamsburg, Va.

Hopes to rebuild the restaurant were dashed in the early 1990s when the Bradenton City Commission declined to help them sponsor a Community Development Block grant for $460,000 to help finance construction.

The property is zoned for a hotel, motel or restaurant, according to Mike Norman.

He noted that Manatee County has lost more than 300 motel rooms and upwards of $70,000 in bed tax revenue the past several years and there is a growing need on the Island for a resort offering short-term stayovers.

"This is a prime location for a hotel or motel. There’s a definite need and demand for this type of property," he said.

For more information on the property, call Mike Norman Realty at 1-800-367-1617 or 778-6696. The real estate office is located at 3101 Gulf Drive.