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Date of Issue: November 03, 2005

County inching ahead on Seafood Shack deal

Shack pic

Manatee County appears to be moving very slowly toward a possible offer to buy Ham Jones's Seafood Shack in Cortez.

Richard "Chips" Shore, clerk of the circuit court, told a meeting in Cortez that the county is to prepare a letter to Jones making clear that the county is interested in the property but can't make an offer until it gets an appraisal, which will hold the property off the market for a specified time.

His position carries with it responsibility for nearly everything of a historic nature in Manatee County. He is a member of the board of directors of the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage, the main civic organization in Cortez, and he reported Thursday to FISH on the Seafood Shack matter.

Jones said he had given the county the right of first refusal on the property - "If someone came around with an offer the county could buy for that price, ahead of the offerer."

He has held the landmark waterfront restaurant off the market since earlier bidders had fizzled, he said, and was waiting for the county to make a move. But governments move slowly, he noted.

"I just didn't like the feeling of standing by doing nothing when there have been others who seem to want to look at the Shack and maybe make an offer. So I told Chips let's set a time limit, and he agreed. I understand he has referred it to the proper people to draft a letter."

Jones won't advertise the property for sale in the interim, he said, but will await an appraisal and try to set up a price with the county, then see if the county can actually buy it.

The county has expressed interest in acquiring the large building, its 320-space parking lot, 68-slip boat moorage and two acres across 127th Street. The property includes the paddle-wheel Showboat dining and entertainment boat, which is licensed for 324 passengers.

FISH has said it would like to partner with the county in the Shack, probably converting it to a marine museum and wood boat-building and teaching facility, and the county would put in boat-launching ramps, FISH said.

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