It looks like Erin's Isle Irish Pub, nearly a 30-year icon in the restaurant business, will be closing its doors. Not only closing them, but becoming the object of a wrecking ball sometime in the middle of June.
Mike Ward, owner of Erin's Isle, leases the property and is trying to keep his business going, while he has been told that the building will not be saved and his lease is no longer viable.
Erin's Isle, on Collier Boulevard between Marco Island and Naples, is well known for its cuisine and St. Patrick's Day gala.
According to Naples attorney James Moon, representing the seller, the property has been sold in what he termed a confidential sale agreement, with multiple owners involved.
The property has been owned by Laupco, Inc., with Leroy Laupert of Naples listed, although others are involved in Laupco, Moon said.
A check in county records does not show a record of the sale, although Moon said the sale was concluded about two months ago.
Mike Ward, Erin's Isle owner, normally would shut down for the first two weeks in June to work on the property. However, he has received a letter from Moon's law firm, Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, representing Laupco, that the property has been sold and plans are to tear the building down sometime in the middle of June.
In checking with the county it has no record of a permit being issued for the demolition, Moon thought it had been done in the last three or four weeks.
Ward has leased the property from Laupco, Inc. since May 1, 1983, as Ward Services.
At the time it was a 20-year lease, which ran until Sept. 30, 2003. It also included a memorandum, allowing for a parking area behind the Texaco gas station, owned by T.C.L., Inc. that also involves Laupert, county records show.
Ward said his lease allowed two seven-year options to continue. He renewed when the first option came up in 2003, along with the parking memorandum. He also contends that he renewed again in 2010 for seven years.
Except that Laupco never signed the renewal in 2010. Ward said he has made rent payments to Laupco over the past two years of the lease and all improvements to the property he has made.
Moon said that his client disputes the issue of rent payments and whether the property was kept in appropriate condition. Ward said he has certified receipts for all rent payments.
He did not make the April 2012 payment on the first of the month because of a heavy rain on March 16. A roof leak caused heavy dripping in the dining room.
"Fortunately it didn't rain further on St. Patrick's Day, one of my biggest business days of the year," he said.
Ward said Leroy Laupert came down on St. Patrick's Day and was told of the leak, which was up to the landlord to repair.
Another leak led Ward to send a note, not a payment, requesting the roof be fixed before the monthly payment was made.
"They jumped right on it, fixing the roof," Ward said and he made the payment.
Moon said the property has a serious mold problem that was revealed in testing air samples and Ward knew about it.
"Laupco representatives and I met with Ward and went over the air samples tests. A remediation protocol given to correct the problem also was discussed."
He claims Ward did some patchwork painting, but did not correct the problem. Moon said the severity of the mold problem brought the determination to tear the building down.
Ward counters, "Once I had affected my renewal in 2010, I contacted them in the spring of 2011 about roof problems. It got raining hard in May and my ceilings in the kitchen were getting black and coming down. I asked my attorney if, according to lease, I could go in and repair everything. I then took out all air conditioning vents and duc work throughout the restaurant, costing $70,000 last summer."
Ward said that the mold specialist accidentally left his 80 sheets of colored explanation and Ward copied it and made the repairs, but that no one from Laupco came back to inspect.
Moon also said, "(Ward) has known the property was being sold, He elected to do nothing when he was given the first right of refusal on the property. The sale of the property didn't come out of the blue, it has been a two-year ordeal."
Ward said that he received notice that the property was being sold and the offer was $1.6 million.
"I asked to see the written offer, to make sure there was a bona fide offer," he said. "I never saw anything in writing and I had that right in my lease."
Moon said he could not say who is purchasing Erin's Isle, but did say the Texaco property has also been sold. The county does not show a record of the sale.
Moon said the gas station was not involved in the Erin's Isle transaction.
It has been rumored that Race Trac is interested in Erin's Isle property and the Texcao gas site, including the parking area behind, to put in a major facility.
According to the Race Trac website, most Race Trac's feature a 5,000-plus square foot convenience store, offering more than 4,000 items and 20-24 fueling positions.
In checking with the county on any demolition permits pertaining to the area, it showed that Race Trac had made a pre-application appointment for a possible site in that area in 2010. It did not designate a specific site, nor was there a record of a meeting that followed to file for a permit.Calls to Dana Reed, Race Trac marketing director, were not returned.
Ward contends that a new owner would have to honor his rental contract.
Attorney Scott Grant of Naples is Ward's attorney, but could not be reached for comment.
"I've been sending him papers, but never got serious, (about opposing Laupco's actions)" Ward said. "I know now I should have. I plan on fighting now. My attorney has suggested I wait until after June 15."
Somewhere around that date is supposed to be the demolition of the building.