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Date of Issue: February 15, 2007

Sandbar special event draws nearby residents ire

A special event permit request is normally a routine matter, but in Anna Maria, nothing is routine, particularly when it pertains to the Sandbar Restaurant and owner Ed Chiles.

The Sandbar submitted a special event permit request to the commission to have a tent for a wedding planned Feb. 17 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The commission heard the request at a special meeting Feb. 8 and voted 3-2 to approve the permit. Commissioners Dale Woodland and Duke Miller were against the permit, while Commission Chairman John Quam along with Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick and Christine Tollette voiced approval.

That's when the uproar started.

The commission had not taken public comment during its brief discussion of the application, but with many people in attendance to voice their displeasure, Quam re-opened the meeting to a litany of objections, primarily from nearby residents.

Leading the charge against Chiles and the Sandbar was attorney Brendan Rowe of Sarasota, representing the Nally family who live on Spring Avenue by the restaurant. Rowe and his law firm represent the Nallys in their suit against the city for its 2006 approval of the Sandbar's final site plan for improvements.

Rowe wasted little time in claiming the commission had "no authority" to waive the normal six-week submission deadline for a special permit, although the Sandbar had applied several weeks ago for a blanket permit for the winter season, pending completion of its already-approved and under construction pavilion. That application was withdrawn by the Sandbar.

That didn't stop Rowe. "They are obviously going to submit [a special event application] every week," he claimed. "This is a 'last-ditch' attempt and it's in violation" of the city's own ordinance.

And the commission is violating the ordinance by approving the permit, he added. The Sandbar, he alleged, is just "reprising" its blanket request for a tent during the winter season.

Resident Mark Alonso, however, sprung to the Sandbar's defense and wondered why every time the restaurant applies for anything there are so many objections. "It's the jewel of the Island," he said.

Resident Marie White, who also lives adjacent to the Sandbar, countered that the commission "can't continue to give 'him' a tent. It's dangerous," she added. "He's going to get away with whatever he can."

Rather than hear a continuing litany of complaints not related to the special event permit, Quam adjourned the meeting. The permit for the Feb. 17 wedding remained intact.