INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — The City Commission on Dec. 8 gave Nicholas Rapisardi, owner of the popular VIP Mexican American Cuisine in Treasure Island, permission to sell beer, wine and liquor at a second location he’s opening at 213 Gulf Blvd. in Indian Rocks Beach. He must now apply to the state of Florida for a liquor license at that location.

Set to open in March, the new restaurant will be larger than the one his family has owned since 1994. Rapisardi, who grew up in Seminole, told commissioners he began running the Treasure Island restaurant in 2002 after his father died. Though that original location seats 85 customers, on some nights they have to take the phone off the hook to keep up with the carryout orders in the kitchen, he said.

Rapisardi told commissioners that Dale F. Schmidt, owner of the former Aqua Prime Seafood and Steaks restaurant at 213 Gulf Blvd., and Shane Crawford, owner of the now-closed Off the Grid barbecue restaurant at the same site, approached him about leasing the site in February.

“Although we have a successful restaurant, there is a draw for more,” Rapisardi told the commission. “We have outgrown our space; this opportunity was screaming at me, ‘This is the right thing to do.’”

According to the application he filed with the city, the new VIP Mexican restaurant will inhabit the Aqua Prime side of the property and not expand to the Off the Grid space right away. “We have use of the entire building if we see fit,” Rapisardi said. “We’d like to expand into the entire restaurant, looking at upwards of 250 seats, but we come from a place of inside and out, (only) 85 seats.”

The city clerk added a stipulation to the alcohol license that allows the city to revoke the license in the case of “repeated or intermittent nuisance activity” and excessive noise in the building and parking lot. The 3,000-square-foot restaurant will have 110 interior seats and 40 outside seats, and 52 parking spaces, Rapisardi’s application states.

Parking decals to be limited to residents only

City Hall took a step closer to limiting residential parking decals to full-time residents only and banning overnight parking at beach access sites without special permits. The ordinance would also raise parking fines from $40 to $75.

The first reading of the ordinance, which the commission passed at its Dec. 8 meeting, would allow only residents with a driver’s license showing an Indian Rocks Beach address and a vehicle registered to the address to obtain the much-sought parking “by permit-only” decals. A second vote is required sometime in January before the ordinance takes effect, City Manager Gregg Mims said.

The hope is the new policy will be in place when decals are handed out in early February.

Mims told commissioners that owners of vacation rental units and short-term renters — even some from out of town — have obtained thousands of decals simply by going to City Hall and asking for them. The new rules require the resident to fill out an application and submit it under oath. Two or more of the following documents must accompany the application:

• A Florida driver’s license identifying the driver’s address within the city for which the permit is sought

• A valid automobile registration reflecting the residential address within the city

• The applicant or a member of the immediate family being listed on the current real property tax rolls at the residential address within the city

• A copy of one utility bill, bearing the residential address within the city.

“The way this is written, if you don’t meet that criteria of a registered vehicle and a drivers’ license you don’t get a decal,” Mims said. “We issued, last cycle, 4,000 or 5,000 … decals. There are 73 resident parking spaces in town.” If homeowners request only enough for family members, that could result in fewer than 2,000 decals in circulation, he said.

Commissioner Joe McCall, the lone “Nay” vote, argued the measure was too broad; he said some part-time renters and visitors who spend money here should be issued parking permits. He argued that winter visitors are an important part of the town’s life during the winter months.

“I don’t necessarily agree on the residential part of this,” he told fellow commissioners. “Vacation rentals are a vital part of our economy.”

The ordinance also would require the decals to be permanently affixed to vehicles and bans the transfer of the city-issued parking decals to another person or entity.

Meanwhile, if it passes on second reading, the ordinance would ban overnight parking in non-residential spots at beach access sites. Temporary parking permits, good for up to three nights, are available at $5 per night at City Hall.

In other news

The commission passed the second reading of its “Leave No Trace” ordinance, which requires beachgoers to fill in holes they’ve dug in the beach and requires them to remove any chairs, beach umbrellas, tents, plastic toys, coolers or other items from the beach. According to Mims, city employees, sheriff’s deputies and others end up having to pick up after beachgoers; the new rule allows the city to impound property found on the beach for up to 90 days.

Due to the holidays, there will not be a second City Commission meeting in December.