Landmark Sarasota dinner theatre shut down

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SARASOTA - The Golden Apple Dinner Theatre has been a downtown Sarasota landmark for 42 years. But Monday the court ordered the theatre owners out of the building and locks were changed to make sure they don't return.

The Golden Apple -- the longest continually operating dinner theatre in the country -- has been struggling financially for some time. They recently reorganized and formed an educational arm to allow tax deductible donations. But Monday it appeared that was too little too late.

It was a sad day for co-owners Bob and Roberta Turoff, their family, friends, and the many people who attended shows there.

These hard economic times really took a toll on the theatre. The Turoff's sold the building a year and a half ago so they could stay afloat. They say they had asked their landlord to cut them some slack in paying the rent during these slow days of summer, but the landlord refused.

They couldn't come up with the rent for August, and Monday morning Judge Haworth signed the eviction notice.

The Turoff’s say they gave the new owner $250,000 as a part of the deal at time of the sale, and they wanted him to use that money in this emergency situation to pay the rent.

But the owner's attorney said no dice.

"There was $250,000 of our money in this deal, they could take the rent right out of that money and just keep subtracting. We could stay here for 13 months if they'd let us do that," says Roberta Turoff.

"The Golden Apple has pledged the amount due under that mortgage to others, so they aren't in a position to assign it at this point in time," says Charles Bartlett, attorney for the building’s owner.

Soon after the Turoff's got to the theatre from the court hearing Monday morning, sheriff's deputies showed up, ordered everyone out of the building, and locked the doors. Soon representatives from the new owners showed up and changed the locks.