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Anna Maria restaurants inch toward serving spirits

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria city commissioners at their July 11 meeting approved the first reading of an amendment to the city’s alcoholic beverage law that would allow restaurants to apply for a full spirits license if they meet certain criteria.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb, however, said the amendment should include a clause that allows the city to revoke the license if the establishment receives three or more code violations within a six-month period.

But Commissioner Doug Copeland said he wanted to ensure a neighbor to a restaurant could not halt alcohol sales by merely making several complaints to the city.

No, responded Webb. The restaurant would have to go before the special magistrate before alcohol sales could be halted.

The proposed amendment would allow restaurants that have sold beer and wine for more than five years to apply for a special spirits license. Once approved, the restaurant would apply to the state for a liquor license.

Under the proposed amendment, a restaurant must maintain a minimum of 60 percent of its sales from food, and would stop serving alcoholic beverages at 10 p.m.

Dye said it appeared to him that a restaurant serving only beer and wine could continue selling beverages until 2:30 a.m., while a restaurant with a spirits license under the proposed amendment had to stop all sales, including beer and wine, at 10 p.m.

Attorney Scott Rudacille, representing the Waterfront Restaurant and owner Jason Suzor, said that was the intent of the amendment.

The spirit sales initiative was spearheaded by Suzor.

Commissioners agreed and asked Dye to ensure the amendment eliminates confusion when they hold a final reading of the ordinance July 25.

The amendment would not apply to restaurants grandfathered for alcohol sales, which includes the Sandbar Restaurant.

Commissioners also approved a beer and wine license for Ginny’s and Jane E’s at the old IGA on Gulf Drive, noting the establishment presently closes at 5 p.m.

Paul Foster of the restaurant told commissioners he would like to offer beer and wine package sales.

Webb said that if Ginny’s and Jane E’s holds a special function in the evening, such as a wedding reception, it must offer a meal in order to serve beer or wine.

City planner Alan Garrett explained to commissioners that a liquor license, be it beer and wine or full service, is issued by the state after the city “signs off on the application.”

Dye said once the state issues a license to a restaurant, the city could only regulate hours of operation and land-use issues.

“They can’t serve alcohol until they have both approvals, city and state,” he said.

In other business, commissioners continued the second reading of the historic preservation ordinance to Aug. 22 in order for Garrett to clarify some issues.

What he does not want, Garrett said, is to have a house designated historic, the owner make improvements beyond the 50 percent of value rule, then opt out of the historical designation.

The commission also approved changes to the city’s charter as presented by the charter review committee.

The changes are primarily how a mayor is elected if no one runs for the office — as happened in November 2012 — and how the commission elects a commissioner to fill a vacancy on the commission.

The proposed charter changes will be on the November ballot for the electorate to approve or reject.

After commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance, Mayor SueLynn thanked former Commissioner Tom Aposporos for his work advising the committee. Aposporos has been involved with three charter review committees in the city since 2002.

Building official Bob Welch presented a resolution for sidewalk standards proposing the city have an option to use materials other than concrete and pavers for sidewalks that will be taken up at a future meeting.

2 Responses to Anna Maria restaurants inch toward serving spirits

  1. Alan Janssens says:

    This is an excellent idea…why? Because it will stop forcing people who want a mixed drink from leaving restaurants just to walk into a bar to get one. In fact, while the city is on this topic, it should also force bars to serve food. There is no sane reason someone sitting at bar should not be able to order food while drinking alcohol. It doesn’t have to be gourmet..it can be prepared elsewhere for re-sale. I’m sure the General Store which prepares excellent food to go could work something out with a bar so everybody wins. Drinking? No Food? Leaving a restaurant just to get a mixed drink?..it’s all bad.

    • Alan Janssens says:

      (adding to my above comment)… The 10pm closing for those who serve mixed drinks is NOT a good idea..again, it just drives customers out and into the bar(s). Perhaps midnight on the weekends? If one is to assume hard liquor mixed drinks are a problem, better ban wine as well. It’s a mix of grapes.

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