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I-Team: Bradenton restaurant forced to close

Posted at 6:38 PM, Feb 02, 2016

The owner of the Tarpon Point Grill and Tiki Bar in Bradenton is telling us its landlord is forcing them out of business at the end of the month.

His reason?  He doesn't think the restaurant is successful.

For Bruce Bottorff it's more than just an outdoor waterfront restaurant.

"Besides being my 4-year-old's sandbox, it's meant a lot to my wife and I and my family," he said.

Bruce has owned the Tarpon Point Grill and Tiki Bar in Bradenton for more than five years.

But Bottorff just found out from his landlord that his lease is not getting renewed.

In a letter sent to Bottorff, the landlord feels the tenant "has not operated its business in a successful and productive manner."

So at the end of the month they have to close.

"It's heart wrenching it really is," Bottorff said.

Heart wrenching because Bottorff said they've been very successful. He said they've always turned a profit, never missed a rent payment, and have given more than $200,000 to local charities.

"Our sales average between $2 1/2 to $3 million a year over the last five years," he said. "We pay the landlord on average of about $20,000 a month."

Scott Tibbetts is the landlord. In their agreement, he collects rent and gets a percentage of the restaurant's gross sales.

Their lease renewal is dependent on whether he feels they're successful or not.

We tried reaching him at his office and called his cellphone to ask him how he defines success in this agreement. He never got back to us.

Bottorff said he put more than a million dollars of his own money to fix the place up and is now being forced out because his landlord has bigger plans.

"So it all came down to he saw success, he saw how we were doing and he wanted more of the pie," he said. "He wanted more than we agreed to from day one."

At the end of this month the restaurant will close and up to 70 employees will be out of work.

Like server James Liggett. His wife and step daughter work here as well.

"There's a lot of anxiety," he said. "A lot of sleepless nights because we're wondering how we're gonna get March through April."

"It was more difficult than i could ever imagine looking all the employees in the face and telling them that we can't be a place to support their families any longer," Bottorff said.

The I-Team confirmed Tibbetts has met with a city official and several potential buyers to discuss plans of expanding the city riverwalk to his property. So far there have been no formal publicized plans for the property.