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Heidi's will close Sunday

The saga of a successful business and its battle to stay afloat during road construction finally comes to an end when Heidi's Italian Restaurant closes Sunday.

"We're going to have a closing up party Sunday," said Doug Strott, one of the owners. "I can't guarantee we'll still have food but we should have alcohol."

The restaurant, at the intersection of U.S. 41 N and State Road 44, will open at 11 a.m. and stay open "until the food runs out," said Scott Brown, the other owner.

For some employees and customers, the closing reminds them of the recent ending of a celebrated television show.

"It reminds me of Cheers," said Margaret Parker, one of 11 employees at the restaurant. "There'll be a lot of crying Sunday."

Parker expressed her sentiments in a poem, which was circulating in the restaurant this week.

"I'm not just losing a job; I'm losing my restaurant family friends. . . It's not losing a paycheck _ it's losing the special times I hate," she wrote.

Lisa Cook, a waitress, said she will miss the owners, her fellow employees and the regular customers. "It's sad. There's a lot of people here who are upset."

Cook will take the summer off to spend more time with her young son.

Judging from the heavy lunchtime crowd Heidi's drew Tuesday, it was hard to tell that the restaurant is a business with no future. But Strott says business has fallen off significantly since construction and remained down even after it was finished.

Strott says Heidi's is closing because road construction has left the restaurant with half the parking it had before, and the owner of the property, Harold Grumbling, is selling the property.

Strott said the owners cannot afford the asking price of $230,000, especially when parking has been so reduced.

He says he likes the people of Inverness but is bitter about his dealings with city officials. Strott took his complaints to the Inverness City Council on Tuesday but didn't get much satisfaction.

The restaurateur said that former Inverness City Council president Walter Cannon promised in October that city officials would meet with Strott and resolve any problems with road construction.

Instead, Strott said, city officials arranged for work crews to eliminate about half the parking spaces in front of Heidi's. Strott said the city violated its own charter and the city officials responsible for the work had disobeyed the council's wishes.

Council member Leonard Giordano said the city had a legal right to complete the work near the restaurant. However, Giordano said he would investigate whether the officials failed to meet with Strott as promised.

Strott will return to Pinellas County to be close to his two children, who live with his ex-wife. Brown, the other owner, will become co-owner of Oyster's, a seafood restaurant in Crystal River.

Heidi's has been active in the community, supporting the Pleasant Grove Elementary Safety Patrol and recently cooking 110 spaghetti dinners for Teacher's Appreciation Week.