APOLLO BEACH — It started with Russell Loomis’ idea to build a floating tiki bar that could host events.
He recruited three friends who helped bring the concept to fruition.
While in search of a permanent spot to dock the tennis court-sized bar, they purchased Pine Key — the popular boating and camping destination known by locals as Beer Can Island.
Three years later, the bar is gone, a victim of the waves that are eroding the island’s beach.
Soon, Loomis might also no longer be associated with the island located between Apollo Beach and MacDill Air Force Base.
He is auctioning his 21 percent ownership, but might buy back a small stake.
His partners are auctioning another 12 percent of their shares to raise capital for island projects.
The full 33 percent will be auctioned March 15 through April 2 via beercanisland.com/auction. Auction rules are listed on the website and bids must be Bitcoin.
There could be as many as 33 winners, as bids can be for any variation from one through the 33 percent. The current owners will then piece together the highest bids.
“However, if one individual has the highest bid for the entire 33 percent, there will only be one winner,” reads the auction website. “Only the highest bid amounts will be displayed ... and updated one or two times daily.”
Loomis said that “if one person makes a high enough bid” on a smaller share that “out bids all others, then that one person would get the entire 33 percent.”
Included with a stake in the island are its associated businesses — a catering company that provides food and alcohol for private events there and a boat shuttle service.
“In 2019, our first full year in business, with only one small tiki bar, the companies grossed just shy of $500k,” the website says. COVID-19 shut down the island’s businesses for most of 2020.
The new owner or owners will also have to help fight two battles — one against Hillsborough County and another against nature.
County code enforcement records say the owners are in violation of “operating a beach/membership club on the island without first seeking approval.”
The Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s website says that the island should be 23.62 acres.
But a recent survey of the island shared with the Tampa Bay Times said it is 8.9 acres. The owners said that is more than two acres smaller than in December 2017 when they purchased the island.
They blame erosion, some caused by natural waves and some by waves created by the large ships that cruise through the nearby channel.
“We have hired engineers and planners to install geotubes and a living shoreline to prevent further erosion,” the website says. “Once installed, Mother Nature will naturally build up new acres of white sandy beaches. This process will take some time, around 2 to 3 years.”
The owners previously told the Times that could cost as much as $500,000.
“We are also in talks with the previous owners about dumping more sand on the island for free,” says the website.
The previous owner was Imperial Island, whose president, Carolyn Thatcher, also serves as president of the Tampa Bay Marina. Beer Can Island was where Tampa Bay Marina dropped sand from dredging operations at its marina in Apollo Beach.
Imperial Island sold Beer Can Island in December 2017 for $63,650 to Loomis, John Gadd, Cole Weaver and James Wester. Loomis said they have since added a fifth partner — Jonathan McHenry.
But why sell his stake in an island, something that many would consider a dream to own?
“For me, personally, to spend more time with my wife and kids,” Loomis said. “I may hang on to one percent and have a small role in the island’s future. I haven’t made a final decision on that yet.”