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East County Wednesday, Apr. 7, 2010 7 years ago

Golden Apple still seeking financing

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Editor’s note: In case you didn’t realize our April 1 edition included several April Fools’ Day spoofs, the article about the “Golden Melons” gentlemen’s club coming to the Golden Apple Dinner Theatre site in San Marco Plaza last week was not true. Here’s an update on what’s really going on at the space.

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Golden Apple Dinner Theatre owner Bob Turoff is still seeking construction financing for a 8,500–square-foot anchor space in San Marco Plaza where he and his wife, Roberta MacDonald, hope to transform an empty shell into a dinner theater complete with a balcony and stage.

“We’re still looking for a lender for a construction loan,” Turoff said. “But meanwhile, because we are not getting anything from the banks, we have put it on the market.”

The site has been up for sale since last summer.  Realtor John Harshman said despite the challenging economy, he’s continued to see interest in the property, which is listed at $1.2 million. Prospective buyers have included restaurants, churches, a fitness center and even another theater-type venue, among others.

“There’s still a lot of people bouncing around and looking,” he said.

Turoff said he is current on the mortgage for the San Marco space but still needs the support of East County residents and others at the downtown location to make sure the dinner theater in downtown Sarasota remains open and for him to continue making payments on the San Marco space and move forward with the project.

“We’re hanging on by our fingernails,” Turoff said. “We’re trying to get people to come down. We depend on ticket sales. That’s the best way to support us. That would help all the way around so we can pay our bills.”

The downtown theater location has seen an estimated 35-40% decline in ticket sales in recent weeks because of parking problems associated with construction of the Five Points roundabout and Palm Avenue parking garage.

Turoff and MacDonald requested a $144,000 loan from Sarasota’s Downtown Improvement District in early March to help advertise available parking spots so they wouldn’t be forced to close.

The DID declined the loan March 30 but has offered assistance in other ways such as securing the use of the Selby Library parking lot for patrons, the addition of 10 parallel parking spots directly across the street from the theater, offering private valet parking and assisting with promoting the Golden Apple’s events.

Turoff said he believes the board’s solutions will help.

“Now, the object is to bring the positive back up to the public,” he said.

Golden Apple has been in business at its downtown Sarasota location since December 1971 and is the longest running equity dinner theatre in the country.

Turoff and MacDonald signed a contract nearly six years ago to come to San Marco Plaza to open a second Golden Apple location, although the space was not ready to purchase until mid-2007.

The couple initially had trouble securing county permits for special requests such as the balcony and stage area but resolved those issues within a year. However, with the economic downturn, securing financing has still proven difficult.

Owners had originally hoped to open the site in late 2008.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

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