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Hundreds of signatures show support for Bahama Mamma’s

By Staff | Dec 27, 2011

DREW WINCHESTER Bahama Mamma’s owner Lee Mahatzke, left, with supporters Salvatore and Sally Cefallia. Bartender Nita Woosley, second from right, is worried she won’t be able to find another job if the bar is razed in favor of a storm water retention site. Bahama Mamma’s is located at 1620 S.E. 47th Terrace.

It took 90 minutes to collect 150 signatures in support of keeping Bahama Mamma’s open. It didn’t take much longer to top 300.

Those signatures represent the voice of a customer base that deeply identifies with the open air tiki bar and are distraught their favorite watering hole is scheduled for demolition.

“This is a place where people feel comfortable. It’s like family here,” said Sally Cefallia, who started the petition with her husband, Salvatore.

Bahama Mamma’s is located on a parcel of land scheduled to be sold to Chase Bank.

The corner of Del Prado Boulevard and Cape Coral Parkway is being eyed as a location for a new Chase branch, but with it will come some significant changes for Lee Mahatzke, owner of Bahama Mamma’s.

Mahatzke opened Bahama Mamma’s 19 months ago, repurposing an old bank teller drive-through into an tiki bar serving food and drinks.

He received public funds in the process, when the Community Redevelopment Agency awarded him $21,000 in facade money after he refurbished the exterior.

The site where Bahama Mamma’s sits will become a retention pond once the bank branch begins picking up steam, though it’s unknown how long, exactly, that process will take.

Until then, Mahatzke can do nothing but watch and wait for the day he has to shutter the doors of a Cape Coral business.

“The bottom line is I’m a renter and the property owner can do what they want,” Mahatzke said. “But is it right? Is it fair? No, it’s not.”

The Cefallias plan on bringing as much attention to the issue as possible.

Regulars since day one, the Cefallias are going to continue to collect as many signatures as they can. They also plan on presenting the signatures to the Cape Coral City Council during public comment.

“Why do they want to take everything away from him (Mahatzke)? No one is going to give him money to open another place,” Sally added.

CRA officials have expressed concern over the closure of Bahama Mamma’s, but admitted there is little they could do.

CRA Executive Director John Jacobsen said previously that he, along with his staff, would do everything they could to help Bahama Mamma’s find another home in the Cape’s downtown.

But if the doors do eventually close, it’s going to leave not only Mahatzke in the lurch, but also Nita Woosley. Like the Cefallias, Woosley has been at Bahama Mamma’s since day one.

“There aren’t any jobs for a 51-year-old bartender,” Woosley said.

Chase Bank locations have been popping up all over Southwest Florida. A new branch was recently opened on Cape Coral Parkway, West, and Chiquita Boulevard.

The property on which Bahama Mamma’s sits is owned by Cape Promenade Trust. It owns a swath of property, encompassing nearly everything on that corner except Carriage Cleaners.

The facade grant monies carried with it a lien put on the property. That money will have to paid back by Cape Promenade Trust on a prorated basis.