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Parking, traffic and civility plague business

By Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporter

“You gave me a great opener,” said Birget Sesterhenn, of the Island Florist, before telling Holmes Beach city commissioners March 13 of parking and traffic problems that have “severely affected” her business in the Island Shopping Center, 5312 Marina Drive.

        Referencing earlier comments made by Commission Chair David Zaccagnino on civility at the meeting, Sesterhenn made the connection to the lack of respect shown for her at her business in the shopping center.

        Sesterhenn told commissioners of construction, parking, traffic and civility problems due to the expansion of Martini Bistro restaurant and bar on Holmes Boulevard, directly behind her business.

        She said her loading area was frequently blocked by construction trucks throughout the summer, and now by patrons and staff of the restaurant and bar.

        She said she didn’t say anything at first, thinking problems would resolve once the construction ended. However, they have not.

        “I’ve encountered the situation of people pulling into my parking space” while out on deliveries, and returning to find no place to park.  On confronting the offenders, she said, “I’m getting yelled at.”

        Sesterhenn said one patron told her, “Your shop is closed, why do you need parking?”

        As to the traffic in the area, she said, “I personally think it’s dangerous,” considering the many bicyclists, golf carts, cars and kids with skate boards that frequent the area, especially now, during tourist season.

        “I need to be respected,” Sesterhenn said, agreeing with Zaccagnino. She said city people “all need to work together.”

        At previous commission meetings, Commissioner Pat Morton raised the issue of parking at Martini Bistro and its accompanying outdoor dining area, Fins Bar. He asked to see the outdoor dining ordinance and the parking provision reviewed in view of complaints he said he had received from merchants in the area.

        Also at the commission meeting, commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance updating the schedule of capital improvement projects in the city’s comprehensive plan.

        At a work session last month, the city’s planner, Bill Brisson, said the ordinance update is required annually by state law.

        In other business, the commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the following mayoral appointments:

        • Ruth DeHann to serve on the parks and beautification committee until August 2014.

        ∙ Thomas Creed to serve on the code enforcement board until April 2015.

        The city commission also unanimously reappointed Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson and appointed Officer Brian Hall to the police retirement board, both to two-year terms expiring April 2014.

Store owners weigh in on parking

        The height of tourist season combined with a past problem with construction dust and noise, and continual problems with deliveries and parking — and now a change in ownership of the restaurant and bar known as Martini Bistro-Fins Bar at Holmes Boulevard and Gulf Drive, in the AMI Plaza — have some Island Shopping Center shop owners wondering what’s next.

        Nanette Almeter, owner of Irene’s Resort Wear, 5308 Marina Drive, said the center has been having parking and traffic issues since the AMI Plaza restaurant/bar complex has been under construction “for what seems like years.”

        “The problem has been people go to the restaurant and bar, and there’s no place for them to park,” she said. Then, Almeter added, the parking spots fill up behind the Island Shopping Center.

        “I feel bad for Birgit,” she said of the interference caused to the Island Florist shop owner. “They totally ignore her (no parking) sign,” Almeter said. Sesterhenn has posted paper signs on her back door asking drivers not to block her parking spaces at her back entrance.

        Almeter said the same problem impacts her need to move clothes in and out of her back entrance. “We’re always going some place, loading up the clothes” — to lots of fashion shows — “we do about a dozen a year.”

        Almeter and Sesterhenn agree that the problem may stem from city officials not scrutinizing the site plans and requiring sufficient parking.

        “Business is wonderful,” Almeter said. Parking requirements “just need to make sense,” she added.

        On March 15, Sesterhenn noted a semi-truck parked facing the wrong way on the street, making a delivery to the bar and blocking her parked delivery van for 35 minutes. She said deliveries to a restaurant should be considered when permitting a restaurant.

        Sesterhenn spoke at the March 13 city commission meeting, and followed up her appearance with an e-mail to commissioners, which states:

        “From what I understand, restaurants have to provide parking in relation to the amount of seating they offer.”

        “So I am certainly wondering how the permit for the new restaurant was issued,” Sesterhenn stated. She also asked for clarification of the parking requirements.

        During the recent remodeling, she observed the former driveway and parking spaces between the restaurant and liquor store was turned into a deck, and the deck area was then covered, enclosed and converted into a bar, “taking away more of their possible parking options,” according to her e-mail.

        “In addition to the already dire situation, the restaurant then expanded its patio in front,” encroaching on the handicapped parking spot, she added.

        “Then they installed wooden flower boxes outside the railing of their patio along the restaurant,” obstructing several narrow parking spots on Holmes Boulevard.

        Unlike Island Florist and Irene’s, the Sand Dollar boutique next door in the shopping center, does not have the same parking problems, according to Virginia Possehl, of the Sand Dollar.

        As far as traffic, she said it’s “definitely increased.” About parking, the Sand Dollar has more options, and “it’s manageable.”

        “I feel the trolley is a great asset. The landlord has put up signs to enforce parking for the employees and tenants,” Possehl added. “He’s helped us out in that way.”

        The shopping center manager, Hugh Holmes Jr., said, “If I have problems, I take them to the city.” He declined further comment.

        According to recent reports, Jeff Levey of Ginny’s & Jane E’s, Anna Maria, is the new owner along with his brother of Martini Bistro, and will soon rename the restaurant LOBSTAHS.

        Levey said he thought any parking situation had been resolved. Because he’s just started operations March 13 at the Marini Bistro as Lobstahs, he had no knowledge of employee-patron parking problems behind the Island Shopping Center. Nonetheless, he understood the parking behind the center to be public parking.

        As for trucks making deliveries on Holmes Boulevard, he expects that to continue, adding that both the Island Shopping Center and Lobstahs have deliveries.

        Levy said Lobstahs will not operate the same format as Martini Bistro, but will be offering a family-style restaurant, open only for dinner in the restaurant, and casual lunch and dinner in what was formerly Fins Bar.

        City building officials have inspected his new business, Levey said, and determined it was “all within the requirements.” He added no building permits will be required because he’s not planning on doing any structural construction.

        Going forward, Levey doesn’t anticipate any parking problems. Restaurant employees have been directed to a parking lot with 20 spots across Gulf Drive. Patrons will be directed by a sign to the same lot. He also said his patrons will park on the perimeter of the AMI Plaza.

One Response to Parking, traffic and civility plague business

  1. Kathy M Smart says:

    We too, over at S&S Plaza have been disrupted by the lack of parking at the Martini Bistro. When the original plans were being talked of for this restaurant, it was said that since they had purchased an empty lot a few doors down, that they were to offer “valet parking”. This did not come to pass. The lot sits empty most of the time, while the parking lot at S&S fills up with patrons and employees of Martini Bistro. We have posted NO PARKING signs, with the threat of towing, to no avail.
    The shops and restaurants at S&S plaza are responsible for the upkeep of the parking lot, and the landlord responsible for any liability issues. We too wonder how it was possible to pull permits for a restaurant that seats 175 with parking for six cars! We, at Minnie’s Beach Cafe are required to have one parking space for every five seats.
    I understand that this is a walking/biking/trolley friendly area, however, as many island residents are seniors, they naturally find it necessarry to park close to the business they are visiting.
    Even using the lot down on Gulf Drive, there is still not the amount of spaces required by the Holmes Beach law that the rest of us are required to follow.

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