Shown from the beach is the defunct Cabana Grill and Bar at Sand Key. The restaurant has no affiliation with adjacent Cabana Club Condominium Association. Buildings shown in a photo that ran in the Bee Oct. 4 were incorrectly identified as being the restaurant.
BELLEAIR – Throughout months of debate and discussion regarding the uncertain fate of the Belleview Biltmore Hotel, one thing was certain. A fine of $250 a day was accumulating because the owners did not take any action regarding cleaning up the property and fixing the roof to prevent further damage.
At the Belleair Commission meeting on Oct. 2 it was revealed those fines now totaled $266,500 and climbing.
The current owners of the hotel, the Ades brothers of Miami, have made it clear they did not intend to take remedial action on the hotel because they planned to sell the property or tear it down to develop townhouses on the site. Their problem has been, however, fines on their two other properties, the Cabana Grill and Bar at Sand Key and the Belleview Biltmore Golf club.
Recently Daniel Ades appeared before the commission and asked that the liens on the Cabana Grill and Bar and Golf Course be removed so they could proceed with the development or sale of those properties. He was denied.
On Oct. 2, they made the request again but this time with some heavy support. Two attorneys from the Carleton Fields law firm were on hand to answer any questions regarding a notice the town had received that the Ades brothers, who own the first mortgage on the property, would foreclose on themselves and in so doing would wipe out the liens on all three properties, thus avoiding paying the fines.
Town attorney David Ottinger explained that the Ades brothers would not foreclose on the property if the town would release the Cabana Grill and Bar and the golf course from the liens.
Mayor Gary Katica was the first to speak saying, “We as a town are always being asked to give something up. I’m up to my head in this.”
He wondered if the owners would agree to pay half the fines and give the town a legally binding document stipulating that at no time would the golf course be developed into a residential area. Attorney Ray Allen said that wasn’t likely.
“The cost of foreclosure would probably be cheaper than paying half the fines,” he said. “And I would not recommend that they make such a commitment regarding future development of the golf course, that would devalue the property many times over.”
He said Raphael Ades made a commitment via email that the golf course would not be developed. “We have no intention of rezoning or redeveloping the golf course at this time,” he said in the email.
There also was some doubt as to the amount of the mortgage on the property. It had long been reported that the Ades brothers obtained the property for $8 million. However, attorney Lavinia Vaughn said the mortgage was $26 million.
“The mortgage is now registered at $26.8 million,” she said. “My client may have paid a discounted price but that is what the mortgage is.”
Two weeks ago the owners applied for a demolition permit, saying the prospective owners, the Heisenbottle Group, defaulted on their purchase agreement. Resident Tom Curry wondered if the town had granted the historic preservation tax exemption while Heisenbottle was in default. Mayor Katica said he didn’t know.
Mayor Katica asked the attorneys if the Ades brothers would come to the next meeting to negotiate the issue.
“Have them bring us something,” he said. To which attorney Allen replied, “You have our offer, now you have to respond. We are not going to negotiate against ourselves.”
The item will be back on the agenda at the next commission meeting on Oct. 16. However, it will only be a discussion item and no action will be possible. Also at play in the scenario is time. The Ades brothers have set Dec. 31 as the deadline for any deal to be complete or they will proceed with the demolition plans. Foreclosure proceedings would take six months according to their attorney, past the deadline.
At one point during the meeting, Katica said he could not imagine the owners proceeding with their foreclosure plans.
“It would be a public relations nightmare,” he said.
To which attorney Allen replied “This whole property has been a public relations nightmare.”
Update: Changed Cabana Club to Cabana Grill and Bar. Replaced photo.