INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — In a compromise move, city commissioners will allow the Aqua Prime restaurant to extend its alcoholic beverages license to include an adjacent lot on First Street during certain hours.
The commission’s 4-1 vote Feb. 12, over some objections from residents, was spurred by Aqua Prime’s intent to serve barbecue from the side kitchen window of the restaurant. Ten picnic tables are expected to accommodate 40 patrons on the lot.
Shane Crawford, vice president of development and operations for Aqua Prime, said the restaurant used to be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., but now it is open only for dinner.
Plans called for the barbecue to be served in the expansion area from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the restaurant to be open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. The two functions will not operate at the same time, he said. Also, the request calls for the barbecue be allowed to function again when the restaurant closes at night.
Aqua Prime also expects to provide live and pre-recorded music with loudness levels in compliance with city codes on the lot.
City commissioners received a letter from Frances Comer, who wrote that her family has lived at 209 Gulf Blvd. for 16 years and is against Aqua Prime’s proposed use of the property. She said they don’t want drunken disorderly conduct, beer bottles, litter, loud music and cigarettes with the potential for fire at the family’s front door.
“The quaint feeling is the reason why Indian Rocks Beach has become so popular with tourists,” Comer wrote. “Let’s keep IRB the upscale and desired town it is.”
Aqua Prime Operations bought the lot adjacent to their restaurant at 208 First St. and razed two structures on the property providing an opening lot. The company also bought Lighthouse Doughnut Shop, 215 Gulf Blvd. for its employee parking.
Some of the concerns stem from reports that a hotel is going to be built, Crawford said.
“That’s just not going to happen. This isn’t about development tonight. This is about buying a lot next door and trying to clean it up and just make it part of our restaurant,” Crawford said.
Mayor Cookie Kennedy said noise problems have occurred even before the current owners have run the restaurant and continue.
“I know as of last Saturday night the music was on until 10:30 at night. We have problems with the noise in the past. We’ve gotten much better. We tell all the residents to call the sheriff. Some have even called your place of business,” she said.
That’s the biggest problem with granting the extension of the license, she said.
Crawford said he was unaware of the noise issue, saying Aqua Prime has never received a violation of the noise ordinance that he is aware of.
“Not even at least a phone call to be honest with you. If that’s an issue, I can make sure that’s addressed. We want to play nice in the sandbox.”
The motion to approve Aqua Prime’s request, made by Commissioner Ed Hoofnagle, stipulates that the two areas, the restaurant and the shell lot in the extension area, could never operate simultaneously because of the parking limitations. The second restriction is that the extension area could not be used after 10 p.m.
“I think we want to give them a chance to see how it could work. I want also to be respectful of the neighbors in the business district,” Hoofnagle said. “So, I think this is a compromise that should address the primary concerns which, were people feeling that noise, litter and other issues could be really offensive.”
Commissioners Phil Hanna, Nick Palomba agreed, but Commissioner Phil Wrobel voted against the motion, saying the request has “too many gray areas.”
Kennedy warned Crawford that if the music is too loud, “we will take you up” on his offer to provide his cell number.
Wrobel says farewell
In other matters Wrobel said he was honored to have been elected to serve as a commissioner for the past two years.
“I’ve learned a lot up here both good and bad and actually alienated a good friend in town by being up here with the decisions I made,” he said.
He said he was sure he let down some of his supporters by not running for re-election.
“I look forward to continuing being an active volunteer as I have been for the last 20 years, and I will probably be sitting in the audience at the meetings when I retire; I might run again,” Wrobel said.
Hoofnagle thanked him for his service. Hanna said he echoed those sentiments.
The election is Tuesday, March 12.