Like many in Sarasota and Manatee, I have a history with The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort. Back in the late ’70s, I had carved out an idyllic life as a New College student, living in a little apartment on Longboat Key, studying during the week and working as a cocktail waitress at The Colony on the weekends with my roommate, Peggy, another New College student. We were young, tanned and thrilled that we had landed jobs in such a glamorous resort, where we got to wear long, tight dresses and flirt with the bartender and customers while raking in the tips. Dr. Murf Klauber was there every evening, greeting guests ebulliently—then sternly overseeing the bar and dining room.
Over the intervening decades, I would head back to The Colony for brunch, dinner or drinks with out-of-town guests, and I assumed the resort—with its beach-shack elegance, old-fashioned, family-friendly ambiance and ubiquitous Klauber oversight—would always be there.
I was wrong. Late last summer, a federal bankruptcy judge in Tampa, after a bitter six-year legal battle, ended the Klauber family’s 42-year control over The Colony and gave responsibility for the property to the 200-plus condominium owners. I wanted to know how a resort with so many awards, so much history and an international reputation could fall apart, and I wondered what would happen to this beautiful piece of Gulf-front property now.
After poring over court documents, interviewing the major players and discovering what it might take to renovate and restore the resort (see “The Collapse of The Colony,” page 18), I can only conclude that The Colony—as a condominium-hotel—faces an extremely uncertain future.
The court battles are far from over, as all parties continue to fight over the broken pieces that are left. But the prospect of The Colony reviving doesn’t look good. For everyone—the Klaubers, the owners, Longboat Key, our tourism industry and all of us who share so many memories of this legendary resort—such a loss is heartbreaking. I can’t help wishing that the powerful egos involved in this battle could have forged some kind of compromise that would have let one of Sarasota’s most important landmarks survive. I keep remembering what Morgan Bentley, one of the attorneys in the case, told me: “A bad settlement is always better than a good lawsuit.”