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Date of Issue: November 04, 2009

Beer, wine solution brewing

The Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board Oct. 21 created a formula intended to ease but not lift limits on alcohol sales on Bridge Street.

The planning board, with member Jo Ann Meilner abstaining, unanimously voted to recommend the city commission consider three actions:

• Strike a provision in the land-development code that requires a minimum of 200 feet between establishments on Bridge Street that sell alcoholic beverages.

• Draft, within 30 days, a procedure for Bridge Street businesses to secure conditional-use permits to sell alcohol.

• Draft, over time, an ordinance that deals citywide with alcohol sales and allowable distances from one licensed establishment to another.

Meilner abstained from the voting because, as owner and operator of the Back Alley boutique on Bridge Street, she filed the application requesting a review of the LDC provision.

The Back Alley opened in March and has expanded to include a coffee bar. Meilner also would like to add beer and wine sales.

But when she asked about a license, she learned of the LDC provision requiring minimum of 200 feet between establishments on Bridge Street that sell alcoholic beverages.

 The LDC states mandates 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.

City building official Steve Gilbert has said the provision was adopted years ago to eliminate Bridge Street’s “wild and wooly” atmosphere.

Meilner said such has been accomplished, now it is time to change the code.

But changing the code likely will not be a speedy process, said planning board chair Rick Bisio.

So, last week, the board recommended the three-step process, which could help Meilner secure permission for beer and wine sales in the 2009-10 tourist season and eventually update an outdated provision.

The planning board decided against simply eliminating the LDC provision — a quick solution some said might allow for a return to “wild and wooly” times.

“I’ve seen communities go from one extreme to another,” said board member Art Dehardt. He said Woodstock, N.Y., for example, went from ‘high-class” to “drug haven.”

The board also decided against amending the LDC provision to apply to bars and hard liquor licenses, but not to beer and wine sales.

Additionally, the board agreed that it wanted a mechanism to allow businesses such as Meilner to sell beer and wine, but that the permission go to the applicant, not with the property.

Another goal, the board decided, is that an updated provision should apply citywide, not just to Bridge Street.

As board members continued to talk with Gilbert and Meilner, they arrived at their formula.

By striking the current LDC provision and establishing, within a month, a process for securing a conditional-use permit, Bridge Street businesses such as the Back Alley could proceed with temporary permission to sell beer and wine.

“It is my personal feeling that the conditional-use process is the best approach,” Gilbert said.

Meanwhile, the lengthy process of drafting a new ordinance, which would likely include the conditional-use process, would begin.

“Revising these things could take half a year,” Bisio said.

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