New owner unsure if Paradise Tiki Bar and Marina will ever open

SEBASTIAN — The new owner of Paradise Tiki Bar and Marina on Indian River Drive in Sebastian Tuesday was considering his options for the property now that many of the items he assumed would be there are gone.

Memorabilia, coolers, some refrigerators, the beer taps, and other pieces of equipment were removed after former owner Damien Gilliams came to retrieve property he says he was legally entitled to after receiving the eviction notice Monday. The bar top, too, was pried off its base. Gilliams, was evicted after the property went through foreclosure and was sold at auction last week. Gilliams maintains he was within his legal right to remove any and all items from the bar and other buildings as they belonged to the business that he owned.

Sebastian Police Officer and spokesman Steve Marcinik said that until the proper paperwork arrived on the scene Monday, Gilliams was the rightful property owner.

“We don’t take sides,” Officer Marcinik said.

Terry Potter, the new owner, said he now has to figure out what it would cost to replace the items and determine whether or not he is going to try to reopen or sell the property.

“I’m out a ton of money,” Potter said.

Despite the apparent gutting of the bar, former employees and patrons remained hopeful the business would be up and running this week.

“I would love for him (Potter) to say ‘we’re opening,'” said former employee Rob Roberts.

He added that he could get enough volunteers to kick up a “cloud of sawdust” fixing what needs to be fixed.

Fellow former employee Sharon Gatrell agreed, along with patron Rosie Vriali. Both women worked to keep the Tiki Bar up and running during hurricanes Frances and Jeanne.

“We can make this place work,” Vriali told Potter outside the bar Tuesday.

A day after the eviction, Potter said he is trying to assess the damage to the buildings, noting that the structures themselves are still secure.

Once he determines how much money he has left after paying creditors, Potter said he would decide what he’ll do with the bar and marina.

“(The Tiki Bar) has been our boys and girls club,” Roberts said, “our clubhouse.”

Vriali added that it’s her “home away from home” – and not because of the booze, but because of the people.

“This is family,” Gatrell said, “not a bar.”

During the 2004 hurricanes, the staff set up a check-in at the bar so patrons and employees alike could let everyone know they were OK, Gatrell said.

“We knew the family was safe,” she added.

Over the years, they have held fund-raisers for individuals with various medical or financial needs, funerals, and have participated in other civic-related events.

“Customers were loyal like you’ve never seen,” Roberts said.

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