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Date of Issue: July 09, 2008

Commission approves application for cafe expansion

With a platter of stipulations, the Bradenton Beach City Commission July 2 approved an application for a major expansion of a beachfront restaurant.

Commissioners devoted considerable time during their 125-minute meeting at city hall to reviewing plans for the Gulf Drive Cafe, 900 Gulf Drive N.

The city’s planning board recommended commission approval of the restaurant’s application, which calls for a $500,000 expansion with a new parking lot, chickee hut, a tiki bar and lobby, as well as a new kitchen and rest rooms. The plan calls for a total of 90 parking spaces and 252 seats for patrons.

The planning and zoning board, during its meeting in May, focused on parking accommodations and the definition of a chickee hut.

“Chickee” or “chiki” is the Seminole word for house and the structures are considered by many Florida engineers to be among the simplest but most durable in hurricane-force winds.

A part of Native American tradition and culture, chickee huts built by members of the Seminole or Miccosukee tribes of Florida are exempt from the permitting process, though rules such as setbacks do apply. State and federal policies define a chickee hut as an open-sided wooden hut with a thatched roof of palm or palmetto or other traditional materials, devoid of electric, plumbing or other non-wood features and constructed by the Miccosukee or Seminole tribe.

The restaurant’s chickee hut would be used for special events, such as wedding receptions or executive lunches.

The city commission - after hearing from city building official Steve Gilbert, the cafe’s project engineer Marie McCaughan and two local residents - focused primarily on the concrete slab to the south of the restaurant. The slab is a remnant of the old Trader Jack restaurant, which closed in 1985 and was burned by an arsonist in 1987.

In an early stage of planning, the restaurant’s plans included building a bed and breakfast inn at the location, as well as the restaurant amenities. The bed and breakfast was removed from the current plans, primarily because the project was too large to complete within a year, McCaughan said.

With development on the south end of the property on hold, plans to keep a portion of the Trader Jack slab concerned residents who attended the meeting.

“Are they not going to do anything with the cement?” That doesn’t seem right to not take care of that eyesore,” said Barbara Hug, a resident on Gulf Drive. “I have not seen them take care of that property.”

Hug added that residents in the area also are concerned about noise from bands performing in the tiki bar.

“This is a big concern for the 70 owners that live there,” she said, referring to the Imperial House condominiums.

Gilbert said noise and any other nuisance concerns could be dealt with under the city’s code by the police department or code enforcement officers.

He said the commission could consider requiring a fence or landscape buffer for the slab, which sometimes gets used for illegal beach parking. The area is near the Regina shipwreck site, a popular destination for underwater divers, and the concrete has been a popular parking spot for their vans and trucks.

The commission, in its motion to approve the cafe’s application, stipulated that the restaurant owners create a landscaping buffer on the Gulf Drive side of the slab. Specifically, the motion was to create a buffer of native beach plants.

The commission’s motion also stipulated that the chickee hut would not be supplied with electricity or water and that no food or drink service would take place in the hut, with exceptions for private or permitted events.

City hall still must sign off on a final site plan for the project.

In other business, the commission:

  • Approved a final reading of a 30-year franchise agreement with Florida Power & Light Co. The existing agreement was set to expire in August.
  • Directed city staff to prepare revisions to the city’s ordinance on “occupational licenses” to change the term to “business tax receipt” to comply with changes at the state level.
  • Approved payment of a $3,697.56 invoice from Lewis, Longman and Walker for legal fees.
  • Approved payment of a $6,359.38 invoice from M.T. Causley for building department services.
  • Endorsed a recommendation from Commissioner John Shaughnessy, Ward 1, that the city recognize its administrative staff for rallying during the absence of city clerk Nora Idso, who went on medical leave this spring and recently returned to work part-time.

The second commission meeting this month will take place at 1 p.m. July 17 at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.