TREASURE ISLAND — If residents and city officials really want to get control of rowdy crowds on Sunset Beach, they have a simple, but expensive, solution — buy Caddy's On the Beach for $8.5 million.
That is the price Caddy's owner Tony Amico put on his property Tuesday during a commission workshop.
It all started several weeks ago during a contentious public meeting when residents threatened to sue the city for failing to halt continuing problems with intoxicated crowds inundating Sunset Beach, particularly on weekends.
At the end of that meeting, Amico, half exasperated and half serious, suggested the city buy him out.
"The city approached me afterwards and said if I was serious, I should put up an offer, so I did. If the city wants to buy it, they now have a price," Amico told the commission Tuesday.
A narrow majority of the City Commission — Mayor Robert Minning and Commissioners Alan Bildz and Phil Collins — are seriously considering whether the city should buy the popular beach bar.
They are not suggesting, however, that the city use its own money. They hope there may be state or federal grants that would cover the purchase price and let the city turn the weekend hot spot into a tranquil beach park.
Two other commissioners, however — Ed Gayton Jr. and Carol Coward — are adamantly opposed to the city having anything to do with buying Amico's property.
"The price is way overinflated. I am not even in favor of considering it. How in the world would we ever pay for it when we can't even afford to keep up our beach trail?" said Gayton. He said the property's assessed value is $5.2 million, well below Amico's asking price.
Amico strongly defended what he said is a "fair" price.
"What's a beach bar worth that makes $5 million a year," Amico asked. "There must be something paid to make up for giving up that business."
According to Amico, the property was independently appraised recently at more than $18 million.
"My price offered to the city is very reasonable and very fair. After this season, the price will go up, and next season it will continue to go up because I expect my business to grow. I expect to make a million dollars more every year at that location than I have done the year before," Amico said.
He also told the commission he really does not want to sell Caddy's and would only do so "for a pretty penny."
Collins suggested Amico's $8.5 million asking price "might be negotiable."
Minning asked City Manager Reid Silverboard "to look in all the nooks and crannies for any source of grant or trust money" that could be used to buy Caddy's.
The mayor stressed he did not support "in any way, shape or form" that the city use its own money to buy the beach bar.
"If state or federal money is available, it is, if it's not, it's not, but it is at least worth the effort of looking," Minning said.
Silverboard cautioned the commission that the Trust for Public Lands no longer has any state money available to buy recreation land for the city. The state Legislature may provide more money next year, he said.
"The city does have precedent for buying bars and closing them," Commissioner Alan Bildz reminded the commission.
The city acquired Bedrox, a gay bar, for $1.325 million in 1997. The 1-acre property at 8000 W Gulf Blvd. is now a public beach park and was partially financed by the TPL.
Commissioner Carol Coward did not attend the meeting but sent an e-mail to Silverboard with a different suggestion.
"The city is not against Caddy's, we are just trying to keep the peace," she wrote, suggesting instead that Sunset Beach residents should create their own special taxing district to raise the money to buy Caddy's themselves.
"My constituents resent the city spending so much on Sunset Beach all the time while other areas of the city are neglected," Coward said.