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Landmark sale: River Inn, Caroline’s, Boss Oyster plucked out of bankruptcy

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times
The Apalach Times

An Apalachicola hospitality landmark along the riverfront, stretching from Boss Oyster to Caroline’s Restaurant, won’t be going away, after a federal bankruptcy judge in Tallahassee last week approved the sale of the properties to an investment group out of Bay and Gulf counties.

In a five-page order handed down June 25, Karen Specie, the chief bankruptcy judge for the Northern District of Florida, approved a motion to resolve owners Larry and Caroline Maddren’s year-long Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, and give the go-ahead to an upcoming purchase of the properties by Preferred Coastal Properties, LLC, an investment group headed by realtor Zach Ferrell, who specializes in properties in the Mexico Beach, Port St. Joe and Cape San Blas areas.

Ferrell said the investment group includes Patrick Lee, Jared Blair and Dan Haligas, owners of Toucan’s Restaurant in Mexico Beach, which is now in the process of being rebuilt after it was demolished in Oct. 2018 by Hurricane Michael.

Based on a breakdown provided by Tallahassee attorneys Robert Bruner and Byron Wright, who handled the Chapter 11 proceedings on behalf of Seagrape Enterprises of Apalachicola Inc. and Boss Oyster Inc., the total sales price will be $1.7 million for these prime commercial properties, that feature more than 400 feet of riverfront, plus five commercial lots across Water Street.

In addition to acquiring Boss Oyster, the 24-room Apalachicola River Inn, Caroline’s River Dining and the Roseate Spoonbill Lounge, the sale will also encompass another 400 feet on the bay with boat launch at 2-Mile, the former site of the crab factory, where can be found the remains of a concrete block seafood processing plant dating back to the ’40s.

The sales price is calculated based on resolving the properties’ $1.69 million debt as well as paying a 2 percent commission to the seller’s agent Helen Spohrer, of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Beach Properties of Florida.

Included in these calculations is satisfying about $952,000 in debt accrued by Boss Oyster Inc., with two bank mortgages and two with the Small Business Administration. This also encompasses paying off about $7,600 owed in back taxes.

Seagrape owes about $412,000 on its bank mortgage,, including about $21,000 in back taxes.

The remaining roughly $336,000 will go to paying off unsecured debt, attorneys and trustees fees, monies in interest and fees owed to Centennial Bank, insurance monies paid by the bank and closing costs.

“The new owners are exactly what the sellers wanted, a local buyer with strong links to the community and a desire to carry on the operation, which has been so closely identified as an Apalachicola landmark business,” said Tallahassee bankruptcy lawyer Bob Bruner, who handled the proceedings together with his partner Trey Wright, of Bruner Wright P.A.

“We are proud to be a part of the process to return to the community part of its restaurant and hotel heritage with new and local owners,” he said.

While the sales price is considerably below the $3.7 million asking price back in January, the properties will need considerable investment by the future owners, and Ferrell doesn’t foresee that being completed before at least the early part of 2022.

“We’re going to push as fast as possible and hope to be open by mid-2022, unless the magic wand graces us and we get lucky,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of planning to do before we get going.”

Ferrell said the Maddrens have been kept on to assist in the rejuvenation effort. “We got to know Larry and Caroline,” he said. “We’re real excited to be a part of the community.”

The first order of business will be addressing the hotel, and the investors, who plan to change their name to the Apalachicola Trading Company, have enlisted a consulting company to advise them in that effort.

“We’ll concentrate on that first, and they’ll guide us on how to put the inn back together,” Ferrell said. “Once we get that going in the right direction, we’ll be rehabbing Boss Oyster.”

Ferrell said the Toucan’s owners will be primarily focused on the food and beverage side of the effort. He said it is too soon to say what the future will hold for the Spoonbill.

Included in the Boss Oyster complex is an adjacent banquet room, beneath a 2,400-square-foot two-bedroom apartment, complete with decks, docks and boat slips along 69 feet of the river.