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Lawyers, liquor and LAR discussions expected at AM meet

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

The owner of the Waterfront Restaurant, 111 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria, plans to ask city commissioners to consider an amendment to the liquor ordinance allowing “responsible restaurants” to sell cocktails. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

The Waterfront Restaurant, 111 S. Bay Blvd., Anna Maria, plans to propose a new liquor ordinance at the city commission’s May 23 meeting.

Jason Suzor, owner of the Waterfront, emailed a number of customers asking they attend the May 23 meeting to hear his proposal.

In his email, Suzor said customers at the Waterfront have expressed that they want cocktails with dinner, “martinis and margaritas,” but a city ordinance restricts restaurants to serving beer and wine based on maintaining 60 percent of gross revenues from food sales. Restaurants in the city with a full-service bar were grandfathered when the ordinance was adopted many years ago.

Suzor would like to see the ordinance amended to conform to state guidelines, which requires a minimum of 60 percent food sales for a full-service liquor bar.

He will propose to commissioners that they amend the code to allow any restaurant that has been serving beer and wine for a minimum of five years and shows responsibility in serving alcohol to be allowed a full-service bar, subject to specific hours of operation — 10 a.m. to midnight — and obtaining a state liquor license.

Suzor, who has owned the restaurant since 2002, said the Waterfront and other local restaurants that have demonstrated responsibility in serving beer and wine should be given the opportunity to serve cocktails.

The meeting also is likely to bring out lawyers, said Mayor SueLynn. The commission is holding the final public hearing on a living-area ratio ordinance that limits the size of new homes and further reduces the amount of building coverage on the second-floor of living area based on a percentage of lot size.

SueLynn said city attorney Jim Dye is confident the LAR ordinance does not violate the 1995 Bert Harris Jr. property rights act passed by the Florida Legislature. Still, she’s heard some property owners may challenge the ordinance.

The Florida statute essentially provides that the city cannot pass a law that lowers the value of a property. If it does, the two sides must attempt to mediate a settlement. If no settlement is possible, the property owner can proceed to sue the city.

City attorney Jim Dye has said courts do not assume property values will always rise in Florida if a new home is built on a lot. Therefore, there is no expectation a new home will increase in value, and the city’s LAR ordinance is not “a taking” of value from a property owner.

Anna Maria’s LAR ordinance is based on lot size. A lot that is 5,000-15,000 square feet can have 40 percent for first- floor living space, and 33 percent of the 40 percent total for a second floor of living space.

Property owners who demonstrated substantial financial investment in building a new home when the building moratorium was enacted by the commission in March were allowed to build under the old ordinance. Those properties include the 11 home sites at the former Villa Rosa property, now known as Bimini Cove, on South Bay Boulevard.

The ordinance was formed to halt the proliferation of “box-like” homes in the city and prevent the “canyon effect” of such homes, as found on Pine Avenue, where the former Island Marine was located, the mayor said.

Commissioners discussed the ordinance for almost five months before agreeing on a LAR that received a majority vote of commissioners.

The commission will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 23, at the Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

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