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Punta Gorda Waterfront Hotel, 300 W. Retta Esplanade, and the adjoining Hurricane Charley’s Sushi, Raw Bar & Grill will be demolished in approximately 120 days.

After hearing testimony from city officials and the defendant’s attorney, the Punta Gorda Code Enforcement Board voted unanimously Jan. 24 to order the building razed.

Both businesses were heavily damaged by Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022, and later incurred more damages from Hurricane Idalia on Aug. 30, 2023.

The hotel’s main section is five stories, and it has a two-story extension, which shares a common wall with Hurricane Charley’s.

Attorney Derek Rooney of the GrayRobinson law firm pleaded guilty to safety violations before the city’s code enforcement board Jan. 24 on behalf of hotel owner Amer Asmar.

Hurricane Charley’s owners Dean and Sandy Stainton, who also own Dean’s South of the Border restaurant, leased Hurricane Charley’s space from Asmar’s company. There were 10 years left on the lease at the time of Hurricane Ian.

Asmar’s company has been directed to pull the demolition permits, and Rooney said his client will abide by that decision.

Other conditions include putting fencing around the entire building area within 10 days. The placement of the fencing caused some debate, as the rear of the restaurant and hotel pool abut the city’s Harbor Walk along the waterfront.

Punta Gorda Planning Director Lisa Hannon said the fence “should encompass the entire property” and that “the main issue is public safety along Harbor Walk.”

She said it must remain open for residents and, if necessary, a detour route should be provided and part of the demolition permit. The parking lot will be accessible, particularly for construction crews and their equipment during the process.

Code Compliance Officer Nick Falkner summarized events going back to Sept. 23, 2023, when the building was deemed unsafe upon inspection. Falkner later made other inspections and reported no repairs to the hotel and grounds.

On a couple of occasions, certified letters to Asmar were returned unread, and a notice of violation was posted on the hotel’s front doors.

Although the hotel never reopened after Hurricane Ian, Hurricane Charley’s underwent repairs and reopened. But its reopening was short-lived, as Hurricane Idalia caused damage that could not be repaired.

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.

Building Official Kathleen Croteau said emergency medical services have received calls about people breaking into the structure since the hotel closed.

Rooney said although the hotel’s doors have been boarded up and nailed, the intruders have been climbing up to the second story and breaking windows. When first responders are contacted, they have no safe way of entering the hotel.

Asmar’s firm will have to pay court costs of $71, but if conditions are not met as ordered by the board, he faces fines of $250 per day.

Code Enforcement Board Chair Hank Bauman noted an extension could be granted with good cause.

In September, Code Compliance Supervisor Lavosia Price Jr. read a list of violations for two separate hearings against the property.

The first hearing dealt with seven code violations, including parking and loading maintenance, public nuisance, outside storage, property maintenance, tall grass and/or weeds and two dumpster enclosure maintenance violations.

Asmar was fined $2,675, which amounted to a $25 per day fine for the 107 days the hotel grounds were out of compliance, plus $50 for case costs.

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