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Mermaid to close in next step of TPI progress

November 21, 2018
By JESSE MEADOWS ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

With the TPI development moving forward, the beach will say goodbye to the Mermaid Lounge at the end of the month.

"My mom and dad bought the bar close to 40 years ago," said Valerie van Selow, owner of Valerie's Lounge on San Carlos Boulevard.

She has managed the Mermaid for the last decade, and has fond memories of her childhood on Fort Myers Beach.

Article Photos

The Mermaid will close its doors on Nov 30.


"We moved here when I was very young. My brother was in kindergarten, I was in first grade, and it was such a different place. It was so cool and so much fun, in the '80s and the '90s, it was the place to be," she said.

She remembers spending her afternoons as a kid in the apartment above the bar, and falling asleep there on Friday nights while her parents worked downstairs.

"I have a lot of fond memories. It's going to be very strange for it not to be on the island," she said.

When her parents bought the bar in 1981, it was called the Surf Club.

It became the Mermaid in 2009. The name, she said, was meant as an homage to 1980's era Fort Myers Beach, when the Beached Whale was called the Mermaid Club.

"It was a nostalgia thing. We wanted to bring some of the old Fort Myers Beach back onto the island," she said.

In 2015, the van Selows sold the property for $4.5 million to TPI Hospitality.

Selling was always the plan, she explained, so her parents could retire.

"That bar was up for sale, to anyone. No one wanted it, no one approached us. The strip mall where McDonald's used to be, all that land was up for sale," she said.

After Hurricane Charley hit, van Selow watched her neighborhood face a series of hardships.

"With the economy and the oil spill and all this other stuff with the water... we're left with a shell of an island," she said.

"If [TPI] didn't come along, how long would it sit there? How much worse would it get? Because it could get worse. What we need down there is money flowing."

Michael Dylan Burg, a regular at the bar since 1981, agreed.

"We need to clean up this side of the island. We have needed to since Charley," he said.

Sipping his beer on a Wednesday morning, he looked around at the room and proudly said he helped make the tables that line the walls.

"It's a local bar. This is where all the local people that have been here for years go to have conversation and see old friends. The majority of us have been coming in for years. We will miss it."

"It's so sad, it really is. It's such a double edged sword," said van Selow.

In a letter to the editor last week, Tom Torgerson stated that there is a possibility that the bar will be relocated during the month of December. Otherwise, it will be demolished.

The Margaritaville project is moving forward despite legal hurdles from the Patton lawsuits.

In August, the LPA approved the replatting of private lands and vacating of public lands by the town on the Gulf side of the Margaritaville property.

Council still needs to approve this step of the process, but TPI hopes they can give approval with action pending until the lawsuits are resolved.

"Our construction documents will be at a stage by February to make application for our Development Order final permitting. We have asbestos abatements to complete on the existing buildings and are working that process," Torgerson wrote.

TPI says the possibility of relocating several gulf side cottages has been discussed, but seems unlikely due to asbestos issues.

Progress continues on the 15-acre Beaches Gateway Village project as well, which TPI plans to coordinate with the opening of the Margaritaville resort.

They expect to give the county a zoning and development order application by late February 2019, and will hold an interactive session with Fort Myers Beach employers in December to discuss meeting the housing needs of their workforce.

TPI's lawyers are working with the town's legal representatives to defend the council's approval of the project in the Patton case.

The company will fund the cost of expert witness Bill Spikowski, a consultant to the project and a city planner who helped write the town's Land Development Code.

"At this point we are hopeful the lawsuits will be resolved in time for us to start construction of the Margaritaville Resort a year from now," said Torgerson.

The Mermaid will officially close its doors on Nov 30.



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