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Commission OKs beach events

By Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

Bradenton Beach commissioners gave their OK to a strongman contest on the beach in December and a spooky chickee by the shore later this month.

The vote for the strongman contest at the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., was unanimous, with commissioners and Mayor Bob Bartelt approving a special event application 4-0 during the Oct. 6 meeting. Commissioner Jan Vosburgh did not attend.

The other vote, for the Haunted Hut at the Gulf Drive Cafe & Tiki, 900 Gulf Drive N., was not unanimous. Bartelt and Commissioners Gay Breuler and Ed Straight voted in favor. Commissioner Janie Robertson voted against the special event request.

The restaurant plans to use a portion of its chickee hut to create a restaurant-themed haunted house this month. Plans include a haunted dining room and spooky kitchen, where battery-powered cauldrons would contain creepy stews.

Robertson booed the proposal, which she said was inconsistent with the intent of a chickee hut, the large thatched-roof structure south of the restaurant that has been labeled a tiki hut.

“I have a problem with this,” Robertson said. “The intent of a chickee is totally different.”

“Chickee” or “chiki” is the Seminole word for house. A part of Native American tradition and culture, chickee huts built by members of the Seminole or Miccosukee tribes of Florida are exempt from the permitting process, though rules such as setbacks apply. State and federal policies define a chickee as an open-sided wooden hut with a thatched roof of palm or palmetto fronds or other traditional materials, devoid of electric, plumbing or other non-wood features.

The chickee is not considered a structure in the statutes or building codes, but instead is a shade covering and, at the Gulf Drive Cafe, it was allowed not as an extension of the restaurant but as an accessory.

The city commission, with a list of stipulations, approved the chickee hut and other elements of a proposed $500,000 expansion at the Gulf Drive Cafe in 2008. The plans — in the works for years — included construction of a 795-square-foot lobby, a tiki hut bar with some dining space, new rest rooms and a new short-order kitchen, a walkway to the beach and the 2,100-square-foot chickee hut.

Referring last week to the Haunted Hut, Robertson said, “The chickee hut was not permitted to be built for this type of event and this type of activity.”

She continued, “I am going to have to say this is pushing the envelope.”

The commissioner’s concerns about erecting a haunted house in the hut for two weeks were shared by nearby resident Barbara Hug.

“You refer to it as a tiki hut,” Hug said. “It is not a tiki hut. A tiki hut has an entirely different set of regulations.… The tiki hut was never built.”

Hug stepped to the podium with a folder containing newspaper clippings about the Gulf Drive Cafe project and notes. She said the record showed that the restaurant had planned to use a tiki hut for the type of events now taking place in the chickee hut.

She also complained that a required landscaping buffer along Gulf Drive does not exist, that her Imperial House condominium vibrates from the bass from bands that perform outside at the cafe and that “the chickee that is there does not follow guidelines for a chickee hut.”

Hug said any flooring in the chickee should have been wooden not stone, that electrical cords run across the property to the hut, a “satellite dish is in the open” and more recently a “flat-screen TV appeared.”

Bartelt told Hug that her complaints were code-related — an issue for another time. “We are not considering code-enforcement issues,” he said. “We are considering the special event tonight on its own merits.”

The mayor said the event had OKs from the city building and police departments, as well as the West Manatee Fire District fire marshal.

Building official Steve Gilbert said the Haunted Hut was proposed as a special event, not “a normal day-to-day business activity.”

“I think, under special event criteria, commission can authorize it for a period of time,” he said. Later, Gilbert said he recently received for review the architectural drawings for the tiki hut.

Without controversy, the commission approved a special event application for the BeachHouse to hold the Brawns on the Beach strongman contest Dec. 4.

A truck pull, log lift and other weighty, muscles-required events are planned, said BeachHouse general manager Rebecca Shannon.

Proceeds from the event will benefit Hope Family Services, a Manatee County nonprofit that provides shelter and services to survivors of domestic violence. The idea, she said, was to hold a strength contest to “lift up the women and children beaten down so badly.”

Shannon said she is still organizing Brawns on the Beach and may need to return to city hall for permission to expand or amend the application.

Commissioners also approved event applications for the BeachHouse to hold its New Year’s Eve celebration and fireworks show from 9 p.m. Dec. 31 to 1 a.m. Jan. 1 and the Gulf Drive Cafe & Tiki to hold a Halloween carnival Oct. 30.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved payment of a $5,820.31 invoice from M.T. Causley for building department services.

• Approved AMIP Thieves Markets from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at Coquina Beach on Nov. 12, Feb. 11, March 10 and April 14.

AMIP also received approval to hold the annual Christmas parade on Saturday, Dec. 10, with the parade from Bayfront Park to Coquina Beach starting at about 10 a.m. A party with Santa Claus would follow the parade at Coquina Beach.

• Appointed Joyce A. Kramer as an alternate to the planning and zoning commission.

The next commission meeting will be at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

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