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Mermaid owner plans to salvage bar by moving it down the street

February 5, 2016
By John Morton - Editor ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Joe Orlandini sold the property that's home to the Mermaid Lounge to Grand Resorts developer Tom Torgerson for $4.5 million last year, making way for the spot where Torgerson wants to put a Holiday Inn.

Meanwhile, customers of the iconic gathering spot began to toast an eventual farewell.

But no so fast. Orlandini, who in the deal with Torgerson made sure he kept the rights to the Mermaid business and building, said he is planning to actually pick up and move the structure that houses the tavern and liquor store, located at 1204 Estero Blvd., about 1,000 feet down the street, placing it where the Sunoco gas station now sits at 1510 Estero Blvd.

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Joe Orlandini hopes to save the Mermaid Lounge from the wrecking ball.

"I have a lot of hurdles to overcome, especially with Town Hall, but my goal is to do it this summer," said Orlandini, who also owns the gas station under a land contract and looks to buy it out, subsequently tearing down the station and removing the fuel tanks.

"I know a lot of people have cast me as a villain in this town, so it will be nice to not be known only as the guy who is always tearing things down," he added with a laugh. "This way, I can drive down the street without people wanting to throw things at my car. Now, I can be a hero."

Beyond some good imagine maintenance, Orlandini sees it as a good business move.

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"It (the Mermaid) has a good following, and that's revenue I don't want to throw away," he said. "As for the gas station, it's a loser. It doesn't make a dime."

The cost of the building relocation is being estimated at $400,000, Orlandini said.

Customers at the bar Friday voiced their pleasure with the idea.

"I'd like to see it happen," said Mark Vincent, who has been been patronizing the Mermaid for 30 years. "The place is a classic."

Ray Kuhn, who's been a customer for 14 years, agreed.

"It's a landmark building - one of the oldest on the beach," he said. "A lot of people will tell you it's one of the first bars they ever went to. He'll get a lot of support from the community on this."

Meanwhile, Orlandini said the Mermaid would fit nicely as an anchor for a project he hopes to orchestrate in the near future along a series of properties that sit just south of where the proposed Grand Resorts site is located. He did not elaborate on his idea.

Meanwhile, he also hopes that salvaging the Mermaid will help ease some residents' anxiety over the ongoing Grand Resorts land acquisitions, which is now approaching $40 million.

"I'm the one who talked Tom (Torgerson) into this, so hopefully it doesn't backfire and he comes back after me," said Orlandini, who most recently in December negotiated deals with Torgerson on the sale of the Ocean Jewel ($2 million) and the parking lot next to the Sunset Beach Tropical Grill ($3.75 million). "I just hope people can look past the size of it. He's really bringing some nice benefits and we really do need some nice hotel rooms and more pedestrian space. This island has never seen true pedestrian friendliness."

Torgerson's other property purchases, all made in 2015, are the Salty Crab for $3.2 million, the Cigar Hut and Beach Bums buildings for $6.1 million, the Pierview Hotel for $10.9 million and the Helmerich Plaza for $7.2 million.

What's left for Torgerson to purchase are Crescent Beach Family Park and the site of the old Seafarer's Mall, at 1113 Estero Blvd. Lee County owns both, having purchased them in 2010 for $5.6 million each.



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