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Anna Maria says yes to liquor, no to lifeguards

By Rick Catlin, Islander Reporter

Anna Maria city commissioners at their July 25 meeting adopted an amendment to the city’s liquor ordinance, allowing restaurants that meet certain criteria to apply for a special use permit to serve liquor and mixed drinks.

The city’s present ordinance approved in 1987 restricts the serving of alcoholic beverages at establishments less than 2,500 feet from a church or other establishments serving alcohol. That ordinance grandfathered existing establishments and numerous exceptions have been granted in the interim.

Under the amended ordinance, a restaurant must first have had a beer and wine license for five years and be in “good standing” with the city. The restaurant owner must also obtain a liquor license from the state of Florida before applying to the city for a special use permit.

Additionally, the commission can issue the permit with conditions particular to the establishment.

The state regulates issuance of beer, wine and liquor licenses, and the number of licenses for full liquor sales is limited in each county by a population quota. Those licenses are presently selling for $160,000-plus in Manatee County.

Other city conditions include the hours liquor and mixed drinks can only be sold, which will be 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Under a beer and wine license, sales are allowed 7:30 a.m.-2:30 a.m.

There also is a fee for the city’s special use permit.

Commissioner Nancy Yetter asked about inspecting a restaurant’s books to ensure a minimum of 60 percent of revenue is derived from food sales. Such a provision is in the amendment, Commission Chair Chuck Webb said, and the city will audit the restaurant.

Webb proposed several new changes to the amendment, but city attorney Jim Dye was not in attendance to provide legal opinions.

The amendment passed 3-2, with Webb and Yetter voting no.

The commission also agreed it does not have sufficient funds to pay and station lifeguards along the beaches in the city.

The suggestion for lifeguards came after a 14-year-old boy from Winter Haven was caught in a strong current along the beach and died earlier this month.

Webb noted the city has signs posted at beach accesses advising people of possible rip currents and the risk of swimming without lifeguards.

Webb suggested the mayor have Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Anna Maria substation, look into the feasibility and cost of a flag at the city entrance denoting beach conditions, much like the flag posted at the Manatee Public Beach lifeguard station in Holmes Beach.

Flag colors signal various water conditions for swimmers. A red flag indicates hazardous conditions, while a green flag means no adverse water conditions exist. A yellow flag is a caution. The display of two flags, red with a black square, signals a hurricane is coming.

Commissioners continued talks on an ordinance that would require existing ground-level homes to have at least one covered or garage parking space.

Building official Bob Welch suggested pre-firm homes —those built before Jan. 1, 1975 — be exempt from the ordinance.

Homes built after adoption of the ordinance would be required to have designated parking for each bedroom.

Welch said the ordinance is in response to the practice of buyers tearing down older residences to avoid meeting new parking requirements.

Commissioners continued the hearing to 6 p.m. Aug. 22.

In other matters, commissioners held the first reading of an ordinance allowing permeable materials to be used for sidewalks and pedestrian pathways.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said he plans to meet with biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to do a survey of the flora and fauna at Gulffront Park along Gulf Boulevard. After the survey, the FWC will develop a master plan for the park for commissioners to study.

“It’s only going to be a recommendation, but it will be designed to maintain the park in its natural state before man arrived,” Copeland said.

The biologists want to ensure gopher turtle habitats are not disrupted by invasive plants in the park, he said.

The master plan also will suggest how the city should deal with non-native plant species such as Australian pines and Brazilian pepper trees.

The next commission meeting is 6 p.m. Aug. 8.

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