ST. PETE BEACH – City commissioners voted 3-2 on Feb. 14 to reject a conditional use permit application that would have allowed outdoor dining at the former Jackie’s Bistro on Corey Avenue.
St. Pete Beach commissioners Terri Finnerty and Melinda Pletcher, along with interim mayor Deborah Schechner, voted against the measure. Commissioners Ward Friszolowski and Rick Falkenstein voted in favor.
The new restaurant proprietor, 338 Corey LLC, and property owner Jack Buns were seeking the approval, which would have allowed 32 seats in a city right-of-way covering three parking spaces in front of the restaurant at 338 Corey Ave.
The area was previously approved via a right-of-way permit in 2013 but the city passed an ordinance in 2015 requiring a conditional use permit for future outdoor drinking and dining within a city right-of-way. The previous permit was attached to the ownership and when the restaurant changed hands, it became void.
Corey 338 LLC was seeking to keep the same 32 seats in the 500-square-foot area.
However, questions were raised by Pletcher regarding the public’s acceptance of the idea and by Schechner regarding parking.
“As much as I think this brings a lot of charm and character to Corey Avenue,” said Pletcher, “I think other businesses on Corey Avenue, as well as residents in the community, have been against this.”
“The largest question I have is about parking on Corey and how difficult it is,” said Schechner. “So I think there are legitimate issues.”
Finnerty explained that she ran for City Commission in 2014 partially because of the 2013 ordinance that allowed on-street dining for Jackie’s but kept the Swigwam Beach Bar next door from allowing customers to sit in chairs on the sidewalk in front of the bar to drink alcoholic beverages.
Finnerty led the charge for the 2015 conditional use permit ordinance, which requires not only the business owner but also the property owner/landlord to sign off on the request.
“The landlord signed off on this conditional use permit (by 338 Corey LLC) but not when it was brought up by the establishment next door,” Finnerty said. “So I find that discriminatory in a lot of ways and that makes me angry.”
Finnerty also said she believes city property – three parking spaces – should not be given away without a referendum.
“We have vacated three spots there without any money being given to us,” Finnerty said. “That’s the concern most of my residents have expressed to me.”
Falkenstein suggested an annual fee, such as $25 per seat, which would amount to $800 per year. However, that action would require a separate ordinance, City Manager Wayne Saunders explained.
“I think this [outdoor dining] is the kind of thing we should be encouraging in our downtown,” said Friszolowski. “I think if we all work together, this can be very positive. This is good for the city.”
The city’s Technical Review Committee recommended approval based on 12 conditions. Among them were a 40-inch barrier be installed around the perimeter of the outdoor seating area, the seating area be elevated to the level of an adjacent sidewalk, no more than 32 seats would be allowed, amplified sound and live music would not be allowed, no food preparation outside, and the outdoor area would not be open past 10 p.m.
In other action, commissioners:
• Approved a request by Tom DeYampert for a beach fire Saturday, March 18, on Upham Beach from dusk to 10 p.m. In addition to the fire, live music is planned. The fire will be built in a hole 4 feet in diameter. A 20-foot area around the fire will be roped off.
• Passed an ordinance on first reading that creates a Pass-A-Grille overlay district, which protects the appearance and character of the community should it need to be rebuilt or redeveloped. With the exception of the business district on Eighth Avenue, the overlay impacts everything south of 32nd Avenue.