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The demolition of the Punta Gorda Waterfront Hotel and Suites and the attached Hurricane Charley’s Raw Bar & Grill hit roadblocks when asbestos was discovered. Now, the owner is searching for contractors to conduct surveys before removing the asbestos prior to demolition. 

Amer Asmar, owner of the hotel at 300 W. Retta Esplanade in the downtown area, was ordered in January to obtain a demolition permit and put fencing around the property’s entire perimeter. 

Punta Gorda Code Enforcement Board on March 27 was prepared to levy fines against Asmar after hearing from his attorney, but after lengthy hearings on matters unrelated to and before the hotel’s hearing, the attorney had to leave, telling officials he had a commitment and couldn’t wait any longer. Asmar’s hearing was the last order of business on the agenda. 

When the matter was finally heard, Code Compliance Supervisor Lavosia Price Jr. gave testimony and cited numerous violations that were subject to fines. 

Building Official Kathleen Croteau outlined complications encountered in trying to get the final demolition permit from the city. Initial inspection revealed the presence of asbestos, and not every contractor has the proper certification or licensing to remove it.  

The asbestos survey was done by an independent contractor who then would have to go back out to ensure all asbestos components were indicated. Asbestos removal contractors won’t give a price bid until they know what the scope of the asbestos is, she explained. 

Zoning Jessica Leatherman said the demolition permit would come after the asbestos was removed. 

Chair Adele Higgins expressed concern that Asmar’s attorney left the meeting early and asked Leatherman to have the matter of whether to fine Asmar be placed first on the agenda at the April 24 meeting. She said any matter in which legal counsel is involved should take priority. 

No further action was taken, as the board awaits hearing from Asmar or his representative at the next meeting.  

The five-story hotel with two stories adjoining it, was built in the late 1960s and was previously a Best Western and Holiday Inn. 

The hotel and Hurricane Charley’s were heavily damaged from Hurricane Ian in September 2022, and the hotel has never reopened.  

The restaurant, which shared a common wall with a two-story portion of the hotel, opened after undergoing numerous repairs, but Hurricane Idalia in August 2023 caused flooding. The restaurant was beyond repair and city officials deemed it should be demolished. 

Fire Marshal Jennifer Molnar walked through the restaurant after Idalia’s flooding and saw several electrical fire hazards, which she said posed violations that present threats to public health, safety and welfare. 

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