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Beer, wine on menu at Coquina Beach

By Mark Young, Islander Reporter

The Coquina Park Cafe will offer the sale of beer and wine to beachgoers at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach after commissioners narrowly approved a conditional use permit Nov. 15. Islander Photo: Mark Young

Cheers.

Beer and wine will soon be sold among the libations and food items at the Coquina Park Cafe at Coquina Beach after Bradenton Beach commissioners narrowly approved a conditional use permit by a 3-2 vote Nov. 15.

Since reopening in May, after months of renovations to the concession stand, an effort has been under way to gain approval to sell beer and wine at Coquina Beach.

But commissioners, under advisement from Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, rebuked an effort earlier this year. Speciale cited security concerns, saying he did not want Coquina Beach to return to its former unsavory reputation.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse also objected to the proposal submitted by concessionaire United Parks Services Inc., and publicly supported by Manatee County Parks and Recreation director Cindy Turner.

Gatehouse cited a lack of accountability for underage drinking and the lack of trained, knowledgeable staff to not allow over-drinking as his main objections. Providing containment of drinking alcohol beverages to the concession stand was another concern.

UPS, Turner and city officials held an August meeting to begin addressing the city’s concerns. Gatehouse, Speciale and building official Steve Gilbert also met privately with UPS and Turner.

UPS representatives and Turner appeared at the Nov. 15 commission meeting to once again request a conditional use permit to begin selling beer and wine at the beach food stand.

Speaking for city staff, Gilbert said staff was comfortable with the results of previous meetings.

“We heard an application a number of months back from UPS and there were concerns about containment and police problems,” said Gilbert. “We believe those issues have been resolved and staff is comfortable at this time.”

Gatehouse said the meetings with UPS and Turner were productive and that his concerns of having adequate supervision in place have been addressed.

“I think my concerns have been alleviated,” he said.

Commissioner Gay Breuler expressed her thanks for the hard work UPS and Turner provided in addressing the city’s concerns, but that she would not support approving the permit.

“This beach is voted as a favorite family beach,” she said. “Therefore, I’m not in favor of it.”

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh agreed, saying she did not understand why the term recreational had to include alcohol. She, too, would not support the permit.

Mayor John Shaughnessy said UPS and Turner addressed the concerns that were brought up by commissioners and worked diligently in good faith to alleviate those concerns.

“We made some conditions as to the safety, supervision and so forth,” said Shaughnessy. “They have been very cooperative in this area and you have to remember that this is a conditional use permit.”

Gilbert said staff added more stipulations to the conditional use permit and asked commissioners to include those stipulations in the motion.

The stipulations require UPS to provide signage declaring that alcohol was to be consumed only on-site at the concession area. The second stipulation requires UPS to use identifiable beer and wine drinking cups.

“And No. 3 is that all sales will cease at 9 p.m.,” said Gilbert.

Speciale added that his concerns over enforcing alcohol use in the area were addressed with the county adding and paying for additional patrols.

Gatehouse motioned to approve the permit with staff stipulations. Vice Mayor Ed Straight seconded the motion, but added that if any problems arise from selling alcohol at Coquina Beach, “I will be in favor of rescinding this permit.”

Gatehouse, Straight and Shaughnessy voted in favor of the motion while Vosburgh and Breuler voted nay.

The county manages Coquina Beach, but the city retains local authority.

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