The Gathering Place could be closing due to nearly 400% rent hike

Published: January 5, 2023 9:48 PM EST
Updated: January 5, 2023 10:12 PM EST

A cherished restaurant in Fort Myers says it will close its doors unless something changes this month.

Tony Clark, one of the owners of The Gathering Place, says the property owners have every right to raise their prices, but a nearly 400% increase is a hurdle they can’t overcome. He, along with many others who love the restaurant, got emotional, realizing The Gathering Place could be in its final days.

The Gathering Place took to social media Thursday to inform fans and guests that January might be their final month in business.

“I didn’t want to be one of those places that just put a sign on the door that said, ‘I’m sorry, we’re closed,’ you know, we had a lot of great relationships and wanted to be able to say goodbye on proper terms with them,” said Clark.

Hundreds of people reacted to the post. “The ones I did read have made me tear up quite a bit,” Clark said.

Clark said the property owners are raising their rent by close to 400%, and he responded to that price increase by saying ‘no.’

“Sometimes one chapter closes, and the next chapter is even better than that last chapter,” said Clark.

The announcement is also a concern for many of the small businesses surrounding The Gathering Place.

“I’m just right at the opposite end of the restaurant, so everybody has to pass me first before they get there. So without that now, I don’t know,” said Michael Diaz, a nearby business owner.

Diaz said much of his business comes from people walking by to go eat at The Gathering Place.

“If the restaurant isn’t there, there’s no reason for me. There will be no people coming through here,” Diaz said.

Clark and his partner Shawn opened The Gathering Place nine years ago, along with help from Shawn’s mother, Anita Martinez.

“A lot of people that I’m so thankful for them that they made this work for the nine years.,” said Martinez.

She’s not ready to lose a place that holds a special place in her heart. “If I had the money for them to pay that rent, I would. But I don’t have it. I only have prayers.”

The Gathering Place’s owners do a lot of work with the local veteran community, cooking meals for veterans out of their kitchen every Thanksgiving.

Clark said that even if The Gathering Place is no longer where it stands, their work with the community, particularly veterans, will not stop.