A trio of owners came and went in a year, with little success, at the CaddyShack Bar & Grille inside The River Club while Jacques Panet-Raymond watched it all.
“I told my wife, next time it comes up, I'm going to buy it,” says Panet-Raymond, a PGA Master Professional based at The River Club, in east Manatee County.
He did buy it. And in five years, with subtle but customer-friendly changes in prices and service, Panet-Raymond built CaddyShack into a local “Cheers” style pub. Yet while running a neighborhood joint was nice, Panet-Raymond says his dream for the past decade has been to own a golf course, not just a pub inside a club. On March 1 he closed on a deal to make that dream happen, when he bought the Terra Ceia Bay Golf and Country Club in Palmetto, in northeast Manatee County.
Panet-Raymond bought the club, inside Terra Ceia Bay, a community of single-family homes and condos, from area developer Whiting Preston, president of Manatee Fruit Co. Rob Waldron with Marcus & Millichap, who brokered the sale, says Panet-Raymond is the perfect buyer. “He has the PGA experience, the operations experience and the golf experience,” says Waldron.
The asking price for Terra Ceia was $950,000, and Panet-Raymond, 57, says he paid a little less than that. The purchase price includes 80 acres; an 18-hole executive golf course with par threes and fours; five tennis courts; a swimming pool and tiki bar; a fitness gym; and a 28,000-square-foot clubhouse, bar and restaurant, Sunset Grill at Terra Ceia Bay.
Panet-Raymond acknowledges the club has some issues, namely on the restaurant side, which he says “was losing a ton of money.” He plans to simplify the menu, from an everything-for-everyone model to burgers and sandwiches. That will go a long way toward bringing down inventory and food costs, he hopes, plus keep labor in check. “The restaurant doesn't need to make a ton of money,” he says. “It just can't lose money.”
Another challenge Panet-Raymond faces is getting people in there at all, whether to eat, play golf or start a weekly bridge game. The golf industry is on a well-documented slide in participation, a trend several years in the making.
One positive aspect specific to Terra Ceia Bay is the community is growing, with 40 homes under construction and more potentially on the way. And the area surrounding the club, in and around Palmetto, has attracted homebuilders in the past few years due to plentiful land options with lower prices.
But the location could also be a negative. While it's near Interstate 75, it's also far removed from large, family-focused developments 10-15 miles south.
Panet-Raymond says the first year will be tough given the built-in challenges and seasonal nature of the golf business in a snowbird-driven community. To supplement that potential shortfall, Panet-Raymond plans to sell CaddyShack Bar & Grille.
The risk with the Terra Ceia purchase came to the forefront when Panet-Raymond went for a loan to finance it. Three banks in the area rejected him, and Panet-Raymond only found success with a banker he worked with once before in the Boston area, where he grew up. There were several other parts of the deal that made the process lengthy and complicated. Panet-Raymond had to get several intricate lines of insurance, for example.
Panet-Raymond, who played golf professionally before getting into teaching the sport, came close but was not successful with at least three other attempts to buy a golf course in the area. That's why he has a kid-like zeal with Terra Ceia Bay, even with the risks. He plans to start a junior's camp for kids, leaning on his PGA teaching experience, and has other plans to make the clubhouse friendlier for gatherings and events.
“Buying a golf course is like buying a small city,” Panet-Raymond says. “I can't believe I own this.”