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Stalled restaurant project hunts far and near for tenant


Vero Beach-based commercial realtor Billy Moss has taken over the listing for a stalled restaurant project under construction on Ocean Drive, marketing the site to potential tenants from Miami to Los Angeles.

“I was in the restaurant business in Las Vegas, Chicago and California, and this is what I do,” said Moss, who specializes in selling and leasing restaurant properties. “I’m reaching out to people all over the country.

“We’re approaching some nationally known chefs, and a lot of awesome people are looking at the location,” he added. “Of course, we’re also entertaining talks with local people.

“It’s very important to the owners that we get the right tenant.”

The property, located across from Bobby’s Restaurant & Lounge, is owned by Sony Investment Real Estate Inc., the Miami-based company that also owns the buildings to the immediate north and south, on the west side of Ocean Drive, between Acacia and Banyan roads.

Moss, who took over the listing from the Rita Curry Real Estate Team in April, said Sony is seeking a tenant that will sign a five-year, triple-net lease for the restaurant – the tenant would pay all taxes, insurance and maintenance expenses that arise from the use of the property – with rent of $12,000 per month.

He said the owners are hoping the restaurant will be open for business next winter.

“That’s what we’re shooting for,” Moss said. “Once we get a tenant under contract, the build-out for the restaurant’s interior should take only 60 to 90 days.”

However, when asked if any potential tenant was close to signing a lease, he replied, “Nothing I can report yet.”

Sony received approval from the Vero Beach City Council last year to build a 2,685-square-foot, 143-seat restaurant on the site, where Parent Construction is nearing completion of the building’s shell.

Moss said the shell should be complete next month. The tenant will help design the building’s interior.

“All I know is that it’s going to be a restaurant,” Paul Parent, president of Parent Construction, said shortly after breaking ground on the project in October. “The interior is a separate project, and that will be up to the tenant. We’re not even putting down a slab inside.”

Moss said it’s likely the future tenant will serve both lunch and dinner, with most business being done during the evening hours.

“Everybody has a different take,” Moss said of potential tenants. “The owners are very much involved in the process and they’d like to see a restaurant that serves fine food and provides a fun place for people to dine and socialize.”

In fact, Moss said the owners – Sony president Jose Valle owns a home on Vero’s South Beach – recently flew in a prospective tenant from Miami to show the property.

“This place is going to have a tremendous impact in Vero Beach,” Moss said.

The impact, though, is what worries some island residents and nearby business owners, who voiced their concerns about an already-challenging parking situation along that stretch of Ocean Drive, especially during Vero Beach’s busy winter season.

Sony’s Vero Beach attorney Bruce Barkett initially identified The Tides as the new restaurant’s tenant during a Vero Beach Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in March 2017. However, The Tides owner and chef Leanne Kelleher backed out of the project shortly afterward.

Kelleher’s departure increased the angst felt by residents and business owners – because The Tides serves only dinner and would not have had much impact on daytime parking in the area.

A different tenant, needing more revenue to cover the stiff lease expenses, might opt to serve lunch, too, which almost certainly would add to parking congestion.

“We approved the site plan,” City Planning Director Tim McGarry said. “The applicant met all the conditions required by the city code. There were no restrictions against serving lunch or breakfast.”

During public meetings, members of both the P&Z board and City Council asked about the possibility of limiting the new restaurant to dinner-only service to keep from making the parking problem worse. 

Barkett said Sony would not agree to any such restriction, which would’ve been unenforceable under the city code, anyway.