The Bridge Street Merchants Association received approval for a special event permit to conduct a nighttime market on Bridge Street, but not without compromise.
The permit request was initially placed into the consent agenda — a list of routine items generally expected to pass without opposition.
Commissioner Ric Gatehouse asked that the permit application be removed from the consent agenda and placed in new business for discussion.
“I asked for this to be moved in order to give this application the same consideration as other applications,” said Gatehouse, referring to the controversial Gulf Drive Cafe & Tiki Market that ended operations in January.
“There was endless discussion about another market up the street,” he said. “This application is for a nighttime market and I believe the public deserves this application to be judged to the same standards.”
Gatehouse, who supported the failed effort at the Gulf Drive Cafe, 900 Gulf Drive N., cited many of the same concerns raised that led to the end of that market’s operations.
Gatehouse cited noise, traffic and pedestrian safety concerns. He commended the merchants association for its success in drawing large crowds, but said that success may be a detriment to a nighttime market.
He said adding more people would create a traffic jam that would circle Bridge Street and end up creating a problem on Gulf Drive — a source of contention to those opposed to the Gulf Drive Cafe market.
“Finally, I think it’s ironic that Jo Ann (Meilner) stood here and argued against approving that one on a special event permit, saying if an event is held repeatedly then it is no longer a special event. Ironically one month later, Bridge Street Merchants is asking for the same thing.”
Bridge Street Merchants requested a nighttime market to take place June 2, 16, and 30, and July 14 and 28.
“The public has been very vocal in the past, so my vote for this would be on a temporary basis, so the public can have their view on it to see if it is working,” said Gatehouse.
Commissioner Jan Vosburgh disagreed that the two markets bear any similarities, as did Mayor John Shaughnessy.
“This will take place in Toomey’s lot, which is off Bridge Street, and I don’t hear a lot of complaints about that one,” said Shaughnessy. “I do agree that we have to treat everyone equally. Everyone knows my problem with the other market was that it was just a bad location. It created a traffic jam on Gulf Drive. I don’t believe this market at night is going to do that.”
Gatehouse said every applicant needed to be treated equally.
“I just think that’s the fair way to go,” he said.
Commissioners agreed the process should be fair to everyone. Originally, the Gulf Drive Cafe had asked for a much longer period of markets than what commissioners ultimately approved on a trial basis. They took the same approach in reaching a compromise for the BSM nighttime market.
Commissioner Gay Breuler motioned to approve the special event permit for June 2, 16, and 30 with stipulations that the city could revoke the July dates should issues with the market arise. Gatehouse seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
Also getting approval for a special event permit is a May 12 benefit for John “Scooter” Tillison. Doreen Flynn, of the Drift In, 120 Bridge Street, submitted the application.
Flynn said the event was originally scheduled for June, but due to Tillison’s declining health, it was moved to May. She said all proceeds will go “to defer the deductible on his chemo treatments.”
The event will take place 1-8 p.m. at the Drift In parking lot. Food, music, drinks and games are planned. Flynn said the event would include a bake sale, gift baskets, raffles and more. Area businesses are donating much of the food and prizes.
Also receiving commission approval for a special event permit is the American Cancer Society Relay for Life of Anna Maria Island event, May 19-20, at Coquina Beach.