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Santa Madeira likely to close

Published Aug. 31, 2005

(ran Beach edition)

The Santa Madeira, a landmark restaurant in the shape of a Spanish sailing ship, is expected to close soon and be replaced with condominiums.

Restaurant owner John Georgi said in a statement: "The potential purchasers are reviewing options available to them and have all contingencies. While no obstacles are anticipated, at this point it remains an offer to purchase." No official closing date has been set.

According to the Pinellas County Property Appraiser's Office, the property at 601 American Legion Drive along the Intracoastal Waterway is valued at $1-million.

Most of the Santa Madeira's 85 employees have been notified.

Restaurant manager Sarah Thurber said the impending war and failing economy has affected the restaurant's business, whose patrons are mostly seniors.

"The fact is we cannot remain competitive in an area without support of younger people," Thurber said. "The state of the economy in the nation right now does not allow people on a fixed income to enjoy these luxuries."

Madeira Beach City Manager James Madden said he has heard that the restaurant will close, but no documents have been filed at City Hall.

Under the property's zoning and land use designations, multifamily units can be built there, said Paula Cohen, the city's community development director.

The 14,000-square-foot Santa Madeira has served thousands of patrons during its quarter-century. The original owner, "Trader" Jack Pearsall, and his business partner, Frank Schmudde, opened the restaurant in 1977.

Georgi and his business partner, Perry Tennell, bought the restaurant two years ago.

Edward and Thelma Sheats of Sun City Center started going to the restaurant when it was known as the Brown Derby. They have celebrated anniversaries and birthdays there.

"I'm very sorry that it will close," said Mrs. Sheats, 88. "I will miss it."

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.