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Date of Issue: July 19, 2007

Skinny's cited for code violation

The Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Board stressed Monday that a limited number of folks seeking cheeseburgers in paradise can dine outside at Skinny’s Place.

The board found the restaurant, 3901 Gulf Drive, in violation of the city’s outdoor dining ordinance. The finding, after a 90-minute review of the case, resulted in the board ordering the restaurant to come into compliance by July 12 and to pay $230 in administrative costs.

To comply, Skinny’s must keep outdoor seating to a maximum of eight seats. Co-owner Estella Freeman said the restaurant was in compliance as of July 6 and would remain in compliance.

The case history, according to code enforcement officer Nancy Hall, dates to spring 2004, when the city informed Skinny’s that there were four seats too many in the restaurant’s outdoor dining area. There were 12 seats instead of the eight allowed under a then-new ordinance drafted to comply with state regulations on smoking.

Skinny’s was asked to remove the seats or submit a revised, professional site plan to make accommodations for additional seating. In the review of the plan, city officials raised concerns and advised Skinny’s owners to seek a variance from the board of adjustment. Instead, Skinny’s removed four chairs.

In the years that followed, city officials observed at various times too many chairs outside Skinny’s, the most recent sighting prompting code enforcement action that led to the July 16 hearing.

“This is not a new situation,” Hall said, asking the board to “find the property in violation.”

Freeman defended the restaurant to the board. “We are not trying to be defiant,” she said, adding that customers often bring chairs from inside to sit outdoors.

Freeman also said Skinny’s management operated with the belief that the outdoor dining was “grandfathered.”

But Jim Dye, a city attorney, said that wasn’t the case - the restaurant itself is non-conforming, a commercial operation OK to operate in a residential zone, but a review of city records failed to find authorization for more than eight outdoor seats.

Freeman said with that information, Skinny’s would follow procedures to get permission for additional seating. And indoor chairs would remain indoors.