Cortez restaurant/fish house secures July 5 fireworks permit

West Manatee Fire Rescue’s inspector dealt with a flurry of fireworks requests the week of July 4.

First came a July 1 request by a Cortez businessman seeking a permit for fireworks to be launched from a barge in Sarasota Bay.

Then July 5, following an abbreviated July 4 fireworks display at the Sandbar Restaurant, the Anna Maria restaurant put in a request for an improved show for that evening.

Sandbar’s July 4 fireworks show had been the only display in the WMFR district until a garage-full of fireworks discovered in June in Cortez sent John Banyas searching for a permit.

The fire district includes Anna Maria Island, Cortez and parts of west Bradenton.

Banyas owns the home where the fireworks were stored. He also owns the Swordfish Grill, N.E. Taylor Boatworks, Cortez Bait & Seafood and Cortez Kitchen. He contacted WMFR inspector Rodney Kwiatkowski July 1, seeking a Manatee County permit.

Banyas’ overture to the county and WMFR came after a June 12 inspection where Kwiatkowski and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office bomb squad discovered 697 cases of fireworks in the garage of a house owned by Banyas and rented to Swordfish manager Bob Slicker.

According to Kwiatkowski, the fireworks — which can have a “devastating potential” if ignited inside a home — must be stored 1,000 feet from residences, churches and schools.

WMFR signed off on Banyas’s Cortez Bait & Seafoodcounty permit for a July 5 fireworks show after checking out the pyrotechnic company.

Sky Candy, of Riverview, was licensed to launch Banyas’ display July 5 — a day later than previous holiday displays in Cortez, according to Kwiatkowski.

In previous years, the displays launched from a barge in Sarasota Bay near the Banyas’ businesses were performed without permits.

The Islander asked Banyas June 28 in a text message about prior fireworks displays in Cortez — a message to which he did not respond.

The fireworks, if shot from navigable waters, also may have required a U.S. Coast Guard marine permit — requiring 135-day notice to the Coast Guard.

According to Coast Guard-Cortez Chief Zachary Gray, some events require the permit, some do not and the St. Petersburg Sector handles such requests.

Kwiatkowski said July 5 he was checking on the requirement.

Texts and calls to Banyas and Slicker July 5 failed to produce a response at press time.

Kwiatkowski, who monitors permitted displays, oversaw the July 4 display at the Sandbar Restaurant and acknowledged other numerous unpermitted and dangerous displays on the beach.

He also is seeking an ordinance to allow fire officials enforcement authority over the unpermitted displays.

Kwiatkowski thanked The Islander for “the heat” and Banyas for responding with a request for a permit.

“It’s progress. They say these things happen one at a time,” he said.

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