PINELLAS COUNTY, Florida. By the end of the month, the Lil family will close the doors of CJ’s On The Island, a neighborhood bar in the center of Treasure Island.
Cheri Leal runs CJ with her son Josh.
“I’m so upset I can’t even think anymore,” Leal said.
“We have always been great tenants here. Survived COVID. Paid our rent through COVID,” Josh said.
But it’s not just them.
All enterprises here have already left or will soon be.
From plumbing to gym, laundry mat and nail salon.
They say that the owner of the square did not renew the lease agreements, and none of them have a chance to stay.
“We just don’t have a choice. We have done. You know it’s hard to start over. People don’t understand what it takes. How long to build it? Create it. So it’s hard,” Leal said.
Business owners say the problems really started during spring break, when the owner of the square turned much of the parking lot into paid parking.
The parking fee is $8 per hour plus taxes and fees, for a minimum of two hours.
This means paying almost $20 more for a manicure or laundry.
“Since then, I’ve probably lost 30-35% of my business,” said Joe Rhodes, owner of the Gulf Coast Coin Laundry.
Customers and even employees received fines.
But Treasure Island officials tell ABC Action News that the property’s owners violated the city code by not getting permission to make the parking lot payable.
They have until the end of the month to stop charging for parking, but by then, things will most likely be over.
The city says the owners have submitted an initial plan to turn the whole thing into a parking lot.
Business owners here say it all comes down to greed.
“Such a nice area in the city center. Treasure Island. No one will recognize him when he changes,” Rhodes said.
We have contacted the owners of the area, but have not yet received a response.
The last day of CJ for clients will be July 29th.