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Date of Issue: October 14, 2009

Planning board toasts text change

The Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board determined Oct. 6 that the city should review a code provision limiting alcoholic beverage sales on Bridge Street.

The consensus was arrived at with board member Jo Ann Meilner participating not at the board dais but at the public-comment podium. That’s because Meilner, as a citizen and the operator of the Back Alley shop on Bridge Street, is requesting the code change.

The Back Alley opened in March as a gallery and gift shop and expanded to include a coffee bar.

Meilner wants to sell beer and wine at the store. However, when she pursued a license for such, she learned of an old provision in the land-development code that requires a minimum of 200 feet between establishments on Bridge Street that sell alcoholic beverages.

“I can give it away now,” Meilner told the board. “Right now, I want to be able to sell it.”

 The LDC text provides a “minimum separation requirement for establishments serving alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption and located within the Bridge Street, First Street North, Third Street South or Gulf Drive historic old town overlay districts.”

The provision states that no establishment in which alcoholic beverages are served can be closer than 200 feet to another establishment serving alcohol.

Building official Steve Gilbert said the text was adopted to bring Bridge Street’s “wild and wooly” days and nights to an end.

“The city fathers were greatly concerned about the number of bars in operation, along with the corresponding law enforcement problems which inevitably arise with a proliferation of these types of establishments,” Gilbert informed the planning board. “The historical records indicate that at some point, the areas along Bridge Street were considered too ‘wild and wooly’ on most evenings.”

City officials, Gilbert said, reviewed ordinances dealing with alcohol and, in 1990, when the original land-development code for the city was enacted, “a very specific set of criteria was put into place which sought to regulate how many bars could be located in close proximity to one another.”

Meilner said the provision is no longer applicable to Bridge Street.

“Years ago, Bridge Street was in need of revitalization and this ordinance was put into place to help improve the street. And it was necessary,” she said. “Within the last 10 years, 20 years, the street has dramatically improved.”

Meilner said exceptions were made in the past 20 years providing other Bridge Street businesses with permission to serve alcohol despite their proximity to other establishments serving liquor, including Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant on the city-owned Historic Bridge Street Pier.

The planning board’s responsibility at its meeting last week was to determine whether the city should review the code in light of Meilner’s request.

The board agreed that the code should be reviewed and authorized a letter to the city commission suggesting city staff and the city attorney work on possible changes for consideration at a public hearing.

One option, which Meilner requested in a letter to the city, is simply to delete the text in the LDC that references alcohol being served on Bridge Street. Alcoholic beverage sales and distribution are dealt with in other city regulations and are regulated by the state.

A planning board hearing on Meilner’s request is scheduled for 5 p.m. Oct. 22 at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Also scheduled for a hearing is a special exception application for massage therapy services at the Silver Surf Gulf Beach Resort, 1301 Gulf Drive N.