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Date of Issue: November 11, 2009

Consensus reached on liquor license process

A Bradenton Beach city commission meeting that involved a lengthy discussion on liquor sales ended Nov. 5 with some mumbling about getting a drink.

But not at the Back Alley on Bridge Street. It will be at least two months before a glass of wine is served at the boutique that filed the request for the review of a land-development rule limiting alcohol sales on Bridge Street.

Earlier this year, Jo Ann Meilner began the process of obtaining the required government permission to sell beer and wine at the Back Alley, an art gallery and coffee shop.

Meilner’s effort was stalled by an old provision in the city land-development code creating a minimum separation requirement for “establishments serving alcoholic beverages for on-site consumption and located within the Bridge Street, First Street North, Third Street South or Gulf Drive historic old town overlay districts.”

The provision states that no establishment in which alcoholic beverages are served can be closer than 200 feet to another establishment serving alcohol.

The provision caused Meilner, a member of the city planning and zoning board, some consternation because she was aware of businesses on Bridge Street that received permission to sell liquor after the provision was enacted.

Meilner filed a citizen’s request to amend the LDC text, asking that the provision, enacted in a successful attempt to clean up the city’s historic district, be removed since other regulations deal with alcohol sales.

The request went before the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board, which on Oct. 21 recommended a formula intended to ease but not eliminate restrictions on Bridge Street, as well as address alcohol sales elsewhere in the city.

The planning and zoning board recommended to the city commission that the city:

• Strike a provision in the land-development code that requires a minimum of 200 feet between establishments on Bridge Street that sell alcoholic beverages.

• Draft, within 30 days, a procedure for Bridge Street businesses to secure conditional-use permits to sell alcohol.

• Draft, over time, an ordinance that deals citywide with alcohol sales and allowable distances from one licensed establishment to another.

Meeting Nov. 5, the city commission reached a consensus on several staff recommendations that would result in amending, not striking, the LDC provision.

“It’s never a good idea to repeal an ordinance … and have an open window,” said building official Steve Gilbert.

The commission agreed to pursue an amendment that would address sales throughout the city, as well as establish a process for business owners such as Meilner to secure a conditional-use permit.

Commissioners directed Gilbert and city attorney Ricinda Perry to work on an ordinance package to be reviewed by the planning board and then by commission.

Commissioners urged an expedited process.

But Perry said with the notice required for public hearings, an expedited process would take about two months.

Meilner, after the meeting, said two months is a long time to wait for a business owner preparing for the winter tourist season.