Throughout the holiday week, YourObserver.com will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2011 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers and the Pelican Press. Check back each day for a reprinting — along with any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JULY 28, 2011
Is there a restaurant battle brewing between Patrick’s Restaurant and Tavern and Patty’s on Main?
There are now two similar American restaurants a stone’s throw away from each other, with similar names and even menus that list identical items.
One is Patrick’s Restaurant and Tavern, a downtown Sarasota staple for American cuisine and award-winning burgers for the past 25 years. And where Patrick’s used to sit at 1400 Main St. is Patty’s on Main, a new restaurant with a similar name that opened July 11.
Patrick’s owner Jim Sullivan told the Sarasota Observer he believes his restaurant, which he moved from Kress International Plaza to a new location at 1481 Main St., is being mimicked by his former landlord.
“You could say things didn’t end on a good note and were never on a good note during the 19 years we had to work with him,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan is referring to his former landlord, Kress International Plaza owner Harry Walia.
“We were told for the last five years he wouldn’t renew our lease,” Sullivan said. “To be honest, I counted down the days and couldn’t wait to get away from that old building.”
Sullivan said Walia never made repairs; he also said his rent was too high at the former location. Now, Sullivan says his restaurant revenues are up 20%, and his rent decreased $10,000 per month since he opened his new location May 7.
“He (Walia) did me a huge favor by showing me the door,” Sullivan said. “I couldn’t be happier now.”
Walia, however, paints a different picture and calls the similarities in the two restaurant’s names “purely coincidental.”
“It has nothing to do with anything,” Walia said.
But Walia is quick to point out he wasn’t happy with how his relationship ended with Sullivan or how it progressed while he was Sullivan’s landlord.
As Sullivan’s 25-year lease expired, Walia said he gave Sullivan three options to stay.
“He chose none of those options and made it impossible to hire a new tenant because he was badmouthing me as a landlord,” Walia said.
Sullivan said he was offered no options.
“That’s a complete and utter lie,” Sullivan said.
Walia explained that he approached Patrick’s general manager, Patty Ridings, about running his new restaurant venture after Patrick’s decided not to retain her.
But Sullivan says Walia stole Ridings away from his restaurant.
Ridings, who was an employee at Patrick’s for three months before the restaurant moved, said the name “Patty’s on Main” was created on a whim during a restaurant conceptualization meeting in April.
“I always wanted to have a restaurant named after me, and everyone liked the name,” Ridings said.
Ridings, meanwhile, told the Sarasota Observer the creation of Patty’s wasn’t easy.
Ridings said that once they received the keys to the restaurant space, they discovered all the electrical wiring had been cut or exposed from the walls, phone lines were severed, computer wires were destroyed, and drains were plugged up with trash and utensils.
“They even tore off the wooden wall hutches and the entire bar,” Ridings said. “We were absolutely shocked.”
Sullivan confirms he took the bar’s wooden hutches and the entire kitchen, even though he didn’t install them in his current location.
“I helped build that bar with my own two hands,” Sullivan said. “It was all mine.”
Walia and Ridings said a local carpenter found the bar in his dumpster.
When asked about the severed wires, Sullivan said he and his employees had nothing to do with it.
“But even if I did, I installed them and they were mine, too,” Sullivan said.
Walia called Sullivan’s departure “disappointing.”
“There was nothing but vindictiveness and anger in their departure,” Walia said.
Sullivan, meanwhile, said his restaurant is booming, and he believes Patty’s is failing.
“This is a very small town,” Sullivan said. “People aren’t fooled by what he did. He has no business, and it makes me laugh.”
Ridings, however, said she is pleased with Patty’s business so far.
Despite the bad blood, Ridings, Walia and Sullivan say they can let the past go.
“We tell people looking for Patrick’s where their new location is,” Ridings said. “At the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to be as positive as we can about it.”
Sullivan said he’s moving ahead as well.
“I just signed a 25-year lease at my current location and am positive my restaurant will be here for many more years,” Sullivan said. “I can’t say the same about Patty’s.”
UPDATE: Patty's on Main closed less than two months after this story was published. A new restaurant called Floribbean Cuisine sits in its place.
There might also be an across-the-street pizza competition brewing on Main Street.
When Kress International Plaza owner Harry Walia ceased his relationship with Patrick’s Restaurant and Tavern, the lease also expired on Pattellini’s NY-style Pizzeria, which moved directly across the street to 1429 Main St.
So what is Walia putting in its place?
A new deli/pizzeria called Five Points Deli and NY Style Pizzeria is set to open in a month at 1410 Main St. and will be run by Patty’s on Main Restaurant General Manager Patty Ridings.
Ridings and Walia said the replacement of a New York-style pizzeria with a New York-style pizzeria is coincidental and said the addition of the deli concept is something new for the area.
Pattellini’s management and owner declined to comment.