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A conversation with Dr. Gary Kompothecras

Questions regarding the new hotel, Crescent Club, MTV’s show Siesta Key and South Siesta Bridge Village

By Bob Stein

While sitting at one of the tables inside the club, Kompothecras laughed as he discussed his first week of ownership. “I told the bartender to buy everyone a free drink. The bartender asked, ‘at the bar?’ I said no, the whole place. This went on again the next day. One longtime patron said to me, the old owner never done this. Needless to say, I won the crowd over.”

Siesta Sand queried Kompothecras regarding changes he may make to the property, and the recent removal of vegetation in the back of the parking lot by the water. “I will never change the inside of this iconic establishment which poured its first drink over 70 years ago. I am improving the parking lot and outside to create an outside experience. People come to Florida to be outside not inside,” said Kompothecras. He went on to say, “I took down the invasive plants, like Brazilian peppers and there were no mangroves on the retention pond in the back.”

Kompothecras informed Siesta Sand, the change in back now adds 10 parking spots as he lost four with the outdoor seating and large screen TVs that are now out front. He also reported that he will be installing an overhang for shade for the outdoor seating.

Kompothecras also revealed the bar will be in one of the episodes on next seasons MTV show Siesta Key.

Q&A with Dr. Gary Kompothecras

Where did you grow up, if not here, how did you come to live in Sarasota?

“I grew up on a small beach community in Queens, New York called Rockaway Beach. It was there on Rockaway Beach where I fell in love with the water as a lifeguard and knew I would one day live on the beach.”

What gave you the idea to start the “Ask Gary” business and how old is the business?

“After my first career as a stockbroker, I went to Chiropractic College and started my first clinic in 1995.

I discovered that most people were misinformed of the rules and regulations regarding automobile insurance following an accident. They seemed to believe that if they didn’t have health insurance, they could not get medical treatment.  That simply is not true in Florida as all Floridians are required to purchase a personal injury protection policy that covers any accident regardless of who was at fault.

I decided to develop an advertisement to educate the public and that’s how 1-800-ask Gary got started.”

How many states is your business in?

“We currently have clinics in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota and New Mexico.”

What attracted you to Siesta Key?

“When I received a job offer as a stockbroker after graduating from USF in 1983, I drove down to Siesta Key and fell in love with the place, especially the beach.”

“I said to myself, well, I am done looking for a place to call home. I have never regretted it.”

When did you buy your property by Point of Rocks?

“I bought the property in 2003 and started construction shortly after. I finished the home in 2011.”

How many hotel, resorts do you own on and close to Siesta Key?

“I own Captiva Beach Resort which happens to be adjacent to my home on Siesta Key.  

I also own the Hibiscus Inn and Suites which is located right across the bridge from my house.

I bought what once was the dilapidated Ramada in Venice and spent a lot of money and time renovating it to the Hotel Venezia.”

What upgrades, capital investments have you done to these hotels/resorts?

“The capital investment into each property was well into the seven figure range and necessary to bring them back to the high standards we wanted to achieve. I also learned a lot about hotels in the process.”

What prompted you to produce the MTV show “Siesta Key”?

“I was raised by my grandparents and we didn’t have much money.  I wanted a better childhood experience for my children.  My oldest son Alex had a large friend group that went out on the water a lot and did things that I could only dream about as a child. More importantly they were good kids so watching them grow up was a fun experience.”

“When my college buddies came down to visit and saw all that was going on, they encouraged me to make a pilot for a reality show.”

“My vision was to show some wealthy and not so wealthy young adults hanging out and doing fun things but also a show to motivate kids to be successful. My son Alex is in his last year of law school now.  Others have graduated with engineering degrees and some have started businesses of their own.  It has been a very positive experience for all involved.”

“I must say when I sold the show to MTV they took over all content and they control what is being seen and how it is presented.”

You are now in the process of building a new hotel/resort on Old Stickney Point Road. What is your vision for this venture? Does the old bank building on Stickney Point Road play a role in these plans?

“In a very specific sense, my vision is to develop a unique, high quality hotel.  But, my vision really goes beyond the very specific thought of building a quality boutique hotel.” 

“The commercial area south of the Stickney Point Bridge represents about one fourth of the commercial property on the Key, and aside from the Main Village is the only other real concentration of tourist oriented commercial activity on Siesta Key.  I see this area as wanting to, needing to, develop its own identity.  That is why I am encouraging the business community and residents of this area to work together to develop a plan much like [what] was done for the Main Village almost 15 years ago.  That plan, along with public improvements, landscaping, street furniture and the like has created a unique, clean and identifiable brand for the Main Village.  I think that the same can be done for the South Bridge Village.  The Siesta Key Chamber is facilitating these discussions.”

“As to my hotel proposal and how that plays in, I think you have to understand two things.  First, there are more than a few streets like Old Stickney Point that are abandoned relics, created in the 60s and 70s when the state replaced a lot of old draw bridges with new bridges.  Nearby, Bridge Street on Anna Maria is very similar to Old Stickney Point.  These small water oriented commercial areas were essentially abandoned and often time, as the traffic that used to support them disappeared, they turned into eye sores in need of redevelopment.” 

“The second thing one has to consider when looking at Old Stickney Point and the South Bridge Village in general is that County Zoning Regulations do little to encourage quality redevelopment, in reality almost exclusively favoring the creation of bars and honky-tonks. Once again look at Bridge Street on Anna Maria. These kinds of uses are very intense traffic generators, and create other aesthetic and community concerns like noise.” 

“To give some credit, when Sarasota County created the Siesta Key Overlay District, commonly referred to as SKOD the County made a small effort to encourage a different kind of redevelopment by offering zoning incentives related to setbacks.  Frankly, the SKOD effort while appreciated, was founded upon a feeble understanding of the economics that drive investment decisions where the land parcels are small and very expensive.” 

“I am proposing to develop a boutique hotel that will act as an anchor for the redevelopment of the area.  Along with the hotel, I plan to convert the current Bank of America site into a mixed use commercial and parking structure, one that would include several thousand square feet of commercial liner space, a rooftop lounge and most importantly a development that would add significant parking resources to the South Bridge Village.” 

“By building a mixed use parking facility I can also reduce the footprint of the hotel site, particularly being able to set the hotel tower back from the street, hopefully in a way that is more pleasing to neighbors.  Done right, and this would require some understanding on the part of the County Commission, the parking portion of this project could act as a catalyst to resolve some parking and traffic issues and to organize additional quality redevelopment of the South Bridge District, not only enhancing our visitor experience and increasing the tax base and tax flow generated by visitors, but do so in a way that is classy and in many ways less intense than what could happen under current zoning.”

“A quality boutique hotel on Siesta Key will give us the ability to focus on European tourism, long a goal of Visit Sarasota and The Sarasota Bradenton Airport Authority.  One of the advantages of attracting these visitors is that they are often bussed from the airport to their hotel, rarely renting cars and thus reducing traffic.  My vision would also offer something that is sorely missing on the Key – a place to hold modest sized events like weddings, graduations and the like.” 

“I have lived on the Key most of my life. I love what it is and what it has to offer.  I only want to do things that will make it better, and I believe that creating a vision and supporting anchor for the South Bridge Village will enhance the experience of Siesta Key.”