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Erin's Isle Irish Pub remains open but on rocky footing.
Owner Mike Ward was told in writing earlier in May of a Friday deadline to close the 30-year-old restaurant between Marco Island and Naples on Collier Boulevard.
James Moon, a Naples attorney representing the seller, Laupco, Inc., said the land, which Ward has leased the entire time, has been sold in what he termed a confidential sale. Ward also was told the building will be torn down.
"(Ward) was told his lease is being considered terminated in the middle of June and to vacate the premises," Moon said recently.
Ward called the notification "scare tactics."
"I am staying open," he said.
Ward said some customers were concerned when word spread that the restaurant — known for its St. Patrick's Day celebration — was closing.
"They are worried about me closing and clients for the catering business have called to ask about us being able to cater for them, some later this year and some in 2013," Ward said.
Normally, Ward would have been closed the first two weeks in June for vacation, but he is not closing. His restaurant is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, which are the restaurant's summer hours.
Ward has leased the property since May 1, 1983, as Ward Services. At the time it was a 20-year lease, which ran until Sept. 30, 2003. The lease included two seven-year options and a memorandum to allow parking for the restaurant behind the Texaco gas station. Ward renewed the first option in 2003. He said he renewed the second option in 2010, but Laupco never signed it. It was to have gone to September 2017.
Moon said the Texaco property, which also includes a vegetable store behind the gas station, has been sold. Both properties have Leroy A. Laupert of Naples on Collier County ownership records. Laupco Inc. is the owner of record for Erin's Isle and TCL Inc. for the gas station.
Moon said Laupert is not the only owner, that he is the managing partner.
Figen Peksen, who has leased the property to run the Texaco gas station for 23 years, said she has not received any kind of notification of the sale. Her lease runs into 2019.
Since 2010, when Peksen heard the property might get sold, she has been on the watch, particularly for a demolition permit.
Rumors abound 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. In 2010 Race Trac made a pre-application appointment with the county, but did not follow up with a meeting, county records show. Dana Reed, Race Trac marketing director, was unavailable for comment.
According to the Race Trac website, most Race Tracs feature a 5,000-plus square-foot convenience store, offering more than 4,000 items and 20 to 24 fueling positions.
TCL filed a request for a demolition permit earlier this month for the Texaco property, also including the parking lot and vegetable store, according to county records. The application remains under county review.
Although Moon said a demolition permit was issued for Erin's Isle, county records do not indicate a permit was issued. It also does not show a record for the sale of Erin's Isle.
Ward said he made monthly rent payments over the past two years to Laupco and he has made all improvements to the property.
Moon said his client disputes the issue of rent payments, pointing out that the building still has a serious mold issue. Ward said he spent $70,000 last summer to correct the problem, but Moon said the work was inadequately done and is concerned from a public safety standpoint.