FORT MYERS, Fla. - Without warning or a word to customers, Ballyorney Irish Pub closed its doors at the first of the year. The restaurant, located in South Fort Myers off US-41, was known for its unique atmosphere and colorful architecture.
The building was originally opened in 2003 and known as Dwyer's Irish Pub. It was later turned into Icabod's in late 2008 and closed just over a year later. Now, as the third restaurant closes for business, customers are wondering why.
"It's too bad, this place was neat and it had atmosphere and the food was good. I wonder what it will be next," said Fort Myers resident Brendan Hughes.
Hughes and his wife Daney were expecting dinner on the patio, not a locked door.
"It's been two businesses since we've lived here and we were told it was another one shortly before we arrived. So they close up overnight I guess," Hughes said.
Managing partner Brad Maloney says increasing competition with restaurant chains and rising occupancy costs forced Ballyorney Irish pub to quietly close on January 1st.
Maloney said in a statement:
"Tourists today go for brand recognition, they are not as willing to try something new as a local would and clearly, we are tourist driven and tourist dependent in Ft. Myers."
"I think that it's a shame because this place had character and the chains are the chains," Hughes stated.
According to Maloney, the rent on the 12,000 square foot castle was raised to $18,000 dollars a month in December of 2012 and was told to pay in full or vacate.
"We gave it our best shot, I was warned by many locals of the 'curse of the castle,' that no restaurant had ever made it at that location but we really thought with our brand and experience, we could make it work. The pub is probably the best building in all of South Florida but it is just not affordable," Maloney said.
Maloney also says with insurance costs and roughly $7,000 a month in utility expenses, the restaurant's occupancy costs per month would sit at around $28,000.
Maloney said the kitchen crew received their checks upon arrival on their last day and he's be in contact with much of the remaining staff to make arrangements for their paychecks.