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Suncoast fishermen affected by closure of popular bait shop

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- The popular landmark and bait shop known as Hart's Landing suddenly closed earlier this month after a city building inspector determined the building is not stable and order it closed.

Now the charter captains who rely on the bait shop are now looking for answers.

Scott Green is the owner and operator of Rodbender Fishing Charters and tells ABC 7 that he and eight other charter captains used Hart's Landing as a place to pick up and drop off customers.  “We would buy our bait there, we would buy our ice and water there. Anything that our customers needed as far as sandwiches, snacks and things like that they would buy them there.”

But on August 7, the city quickly closed Hart's Landing down because of structural problems.

Linda Johnson was the manager.  “I just got the phone call saying we had 15 minutes to get out of the building and lock it up. It is not a joke.”

The City of Sarasota owns the property and building that was constructed on pilings over the water, but Sarasota County is the property manager and responsible for the building maintenance and upkeep.

Charter captains like Green just want to know when the docks and bait shop will reopen.  “Right now we are getting no answers at all,” said Green.

“I just think the way it was manged, or mismanaged rather, could have been handled a little bit more professionally and give everybody a little more time,” said Nicholas Froelich from Double Nickel Charters. He says the closing down of the popular landmark will hurt his business which helps draw customers to the Suncoast.  “In our opinion, we stimulate the economy; obviously we are not Disney, but my brother and I fished over 200 families this year,” said Froelich.

Doug Ricciardi of Tearin' Em Up Charters agrees. “It is very humbling to have people say they look forward to come down here to go fishing. It is kind of like, best job in the world.”

Green points out that more than just charter fisherman will suffer during the closing of Hart's Landing.  “The guy who was leasing it, he is losing money on top of it, all the vendors they are losing money that were bringing product in, they are losing money. The shrimpers who were bringing shrimp in, they are losing money. Everyone is losing money due to the neglect of the city and the county.”

The city is in the process of hiring a structural engineer to examine the building but no one has any information on how long it will be closed and if and when it will reopen.