Five civil lawsuits have been filed in the last 16 months against Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg's Sports Bar & Grill, for failing to pay debts. The popular "second stadium" across from Tropicana Field is not named in the suits and Ferguson said the bar isn't in financial jeopardy.
The suits are related to two St. Pete Beach businesses and two downtown condos.
"It's not as bad as it looks. Hopefully it will all clear up in a couple months or so," said Ferguson, who started Ferg's at the site of a former gas station at 1320 Central Ave. in 1991 long before the Rays moved in across the street. "I would never collateralize Ferg's with another beach property."
Two mortgage foreclosures filed against Ferguson are on condos he bought at the Sage in 2007 and the Beacon on 3rd in 2005. He sold them both in short sales during the past year at a loss. Ferguson said the banks should be canceling the foreclosure suits soon.
Florida Bank has filed a mortgage foreclosure suit against Ferguson and two business partners for failing to pay $3.7 million for loans associated with Ferg's Beach Shack and Philthy Phil's, two restaurants they operated in St. Pete Beach.
Synovus Bank has filed one suit saying Ferguson and the same two business partners defaulted on a $65,817 loan associated with Ferg's Beach Shack and another saying they defaulted on a $91,000 loan associated with Philthy Phil's.
In September, Ferguson sold his stake in the businesses and the land they sit on on 75th Avenue within view of the Gulf of Mexico to James Jordan, John Bodziak and E.J. Bodziak. Now they aren't paying money due on notes that still bear his name, he said.
Records show Ferguson is no longer listed as a managing member on annual reports associated with Philthy Phil's and Ferg's Beach Shack that were filed with the state in January. Philthy Phil's is now called the Twisted Tarpon and Ferg's Beach Shack is now called the Sloppy Pelican, which is what it went by before Ferguson became involved in 2004.
John Bodziak said he is not actually a partner in the new ownership group that includes E.J. Bodziak and James Jordan. He said he has been an architect for the group and asserts that they are paying the rent due on the restaurants but that Wilbur Brantley, who was partners with Ferguson and retained his stake in the businesses, isn't paying the mortgage. Ferguson also said Brantley isn't paying his share.
Calls made to Brantley's attorney were not returned.
"If they've got some internal arguments we don't know that. All we know is the company hasn't been paying," said Charlie Gerdes, Ferguson's attorney. He has reason to hope the dispute between the lending banks and the current owners will be resolved through a settlement. If it is not he will file a counter claim on Ferguson's behalf against the current ownership group.
John Bodziak is also the architect for the proposed Rock House Grille and Cabanas that would be just off Sunshine Lane at the mouth of John's Pass. He plays no financial role in the project but does represent the property owners.
Bodziak filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy on March 29 listing liabilities of $3.1 million and assets of $453,000. Ferguson is listed as an unsecured creditor for an unknown amount. Bodziak's son, John C. "Jack" Bodziak, is the former operator of the Jannus Landing concert venue in downtown St. Petersburg.
News researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (727) 893-8785 or firstname.lastname@example.org.