Florida Keys Business
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Coconuts in Key Largo bids farewell

KEY LARGO -- Sitting at his outside bar last week, drinking a Beck's and eating a cheeseburger, Charles Mountain recalled the good times as owner of Coconuts Restaurant Nightclub in Key Largo.

"There's been a packed Ladies Night in here every Wednesday for 25 years," he said.

Mountain, a West Palm Beach resident who also owns a home in Key Largo, was greeted by sympathetic locals every few minutes during an hour-long break last Friday.

"This how it's been all week," he said.

The bar's 10-year lease ends today despite Mountain's several attempts to convince property owner Ocean Properties to renew it.

"It wasn't a breakdown in communication," Mountain said. "They just wouldn't talk to me."

About six months ago, Ocean Properties told Mountain it was unlikely the lease would be renewed. Even before that, Mountain and wife Colleen had already begun talking about selling Coconuts.

So when Ocean Properties broke the news, Mountain retained an attorney to set up a new buyer for his restaurant who could possibly start a new lease with the company. Despite some positive communication with Ocean Properties, talks eventually broke down.

"We had everything lined up," he said.

What bothers Mountain, he said, is the property owner has refused to give reason as to why it is not renewing the lease. The Citizen's attempts to get a comment from the company also were unsuccessful.

"Don't be upset. They're not talking to me, either," Mountain said.

He said if there was an issue with the bar he would have hoped they would have said something.

"We would have changed this or that," he said.

Not being able to sell the business, Mountain said he has lost his investment and is finding himself in a financial pickle.

He held an auction at the bar on Thursday to sell kitchen equipment, chairs and barstools.

"Pretty much everything," he said.

The loss of his investment has left Mountain in doubt as to whether he can reopen at a different location. Mountain said he is hoping now he just doesn't have to sell his Key Largo home.

In addition to his personal concerns, Mountain also has been spending time trying to find work for his 30 employees.

"I'm driving to my competition across town, picking up applications and bringing them back so my employees can fill them out," he said. "I'm making phone calls all day."

Mountain said he was upset that Ocean Properties, which owns local hotels, offered his employees no type of job opportunity elsewhere.

Ready to pick up the pieces and move on after the past week, Mountain said he will begin teaching his 15-year-old son how to drive and preparing for the college years that are right around the corner.

As for what will become of the landmark nightclub at 528 Caribbean Dr, Mountain said he has no idea.

"There are legal conversations on who owns the name," he said.

Coconuts isn't the only Key Largo business to lose a lease in recent weeks.

As expected, Calypso's Seafood Bar and Grille closed last week after a months-long battle with a Chicago property owner over attempts to renew its lease.

Owner Bron Lollis has said she hopes to find a new location.

jgore@keysnews.com

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