Tag Archives: 07-29-2020

Eyes on the road – 07-29-2020

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following notices:

  • Cortez Road and 119th Street West in Cortez: Work to realign the intersection of 119th Street West at Cortez Road/State Road 684 continues. Drivers can expect lane closures on Cortez Road from 123rd Street West to 86th Street West 10 p.m.-6 a.m. and on the south side of 119th Street West during the same period. Pedestrians can expect sidewalk closures.
  • Multiple locations in Bradenton Beach: A county pipeline replacement project continues. Impacted areas include Gulf Drive, Bay Drive South, Church Avenue and Cortez Road. Expect construction in rights of way and increased truck traffic.

For the latest road watch information, go online to fl511.com and swflroads.com or dial 511.

And, a reminder, a fare-free trolley operates daily on Anna Maria Island.

— Lisa Neff

AM special magistrate calls out scammers, dismisses rental complaint

Vacation rental managers need to be on the look out for party house scammers.

That’s the warning from Anna Maria special magistrate Karla Owens in her dismissal of a complaint July 24 against the owners and property management of a home at 403 Alamanda Road for allegedly exceeding vacation rental occupancy limits.

Owens said the owners and management company were the victims of a party house scam.

In March, Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy issued an executive order to regulate vacation rentals to counter the spread of COVID-19. The order, since repealed, prohibited vacation bookings of less than 30 days and capped occupancy to the allowed overnight rental.

On May 15, patrol deputies in the city, where law enforcement is provided by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, encountered a large party at the property on Alamanda.

MCSO deputies had followed a motorist driving on the wrong side of the road to the property.

Deputies searched the vehicle and found multiple firearms, including an AK-47, as well as potential narcotics, and they arrested Gerard Anton Anderson Jr., Devontae Adrian Houston and Rodney Dunbar Jr., all of Palmetto, on firearm charges.

At the party, the MCSO found more firearms, as well as illegal drugs.

The MCSO’s investigation is ongoing, but the city responded with action against the property owners and management company for allowing more than the permitted number of people at the rental.

City attorney Becky Vose asked Owens to fine the owners, Heather and James DeVore, and their management company, Beach House Real Estate.

But Don Purvis, owner of Beach House Real Estate, asked Owens to dismiss the violation.

He said a renter booked the property for more than 30 days using a stolen credit card and then illegally subleased the property for $400 a night — without the owner’s or management’s knowledge or consent.

Purvis said his company has cooperated with the MCSO and had moved to evict the tenants after learning of the party.

“We’re not disputing that there were people there,” Purvis said. “But we never gave them permission and the owners didn’t either.”

Vose said, “We do understand they were hoodwinked, but they need to have procedures in place to prevent this from happening.”

Owens dismissed the violation, finding Beach House Real Estate acted in good faith and cooperated with the city.

“But if this is a pattern of behavior by criminals, I think all of you all need to tighten up your process,” she said.

“If this does happen again, I will probably not be so lenient,” she continued.

Island bars serve drinks with a twist

Serve it up.

Some taverns and bars are making their way around state prohibitions to continue serving patrons, but the industry’s legal battle with the state is only beginning.

Groups of bar owners across Florida have filed lawsuits against the state challenging its “discriminatory” COVID-19 restrictions toward bars.

The sale of alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption at bars has been prohibited since June 26, but the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation amended the order July 1 to allow bars that were already licensed to sell food to resume the sale of alcohol for on-premises consumption.

That put the Moose Lodge in Bradenton Beach back in business.

And other bars have reopened under the amendment, but the prohibition on selling alcohol for on-premises consumption remains for some standalone bars.

Several lawsuits claim the state has discriminated against the bar industry with the prohibitions, while allowing restaurants — establishments that derive less than 50% of gross revenue from alcoholic beverage sales — to serve customers cocktails, beer and wine.

Such lawsuits have been filed in Broward, Martin, Orange and Volusia counties.

Joe Cuervo, owner of Drift In, 120 Bridge St., and another bar in Bradenton, has told The Islander that he and a group of other local bars, including the Anchor Inn in Holmes Beach and the Gator Lounge in Bradenton, also would file a class-action lawsuit against the state’s restrictions.

However, as of July 25, nothing had been filed with the Manatee County Clerk of Court under Cuervo’s name or the names of the involved bars.

Cuervo declined to name his attorney.

Cuervo said July 25 the lawsuit was still set to move forward but did not detail when it would be filed. Nevertheless, he was happy other bar groups had launched lawsuits.

“The more the merrier,” he said. “It’s totally unfair. Let’s put the pressure on them.”


Island bars package a loophole

In the meantime, several bars on Anna Maria Island found a loophole to reopen because their 4COP licenses allow them to sell packaged food.

“The DBPR’s updated order took away the requirement that 50% or more of sales had to come from food,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said. “So it changed it so that, if you sell food at all, you can reopen your bar.”

The Anchor Inn, 3007 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, reopened July 16 with packaged food. Co-owner Darla Tingler declined to comment during a July 24 call from The Islander as to how the loophole was discovered.

Tommy Knockers, 111 Seventh St. N., Bradenton Beach, reopened with packaged food later the same day. Tommy Knockers employees did not respond to a July 24 call from The Islander.

The Drift In reopened with packaged food July 20. Cuervo previously said he would continue to pursue a lawsuit against the state for monetary damages he already incurred even if his businesses reopened.

“But I’m pleased I can reopen at the moment,” Cuervo said.

The Sports Lounge, 118 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, reopened July 22 with packaged food and D.Coy Ducks Bar, 5410 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, reopened July 24.

A Sports Lounge employee declined to comment during a July 24 call from The Islander. Likewise, D.Coy’s employees did not respond to a July 24.

Tokajer said he was happy to see business return to local bars.

“The two bars that we had were both doing things the right way. They were both practicing social distancing and keeping to the 50% occupancy limit,” Tokajer said. “I think it’s a good thing they were able to open up.”

“The problem was not with our little mom-and-pop bars that hold less than 100 people. The problem was with the nightclubs that hold hundreds to thousands of people,” he continued.


County revises vacation rental rules

Manatee County has changed vacation rental regulations during the pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

County officials updated the plan July 8, adding occupancy limits and allowing international travel except from countries gripped by COVID-19.

Previously, vacation rentals were prohibited for international travelers.

No more than 10 guests are permitted within a vacation rental unit under the county’s revised plan and city ordinances also can limit occupancy.

The updated plan allows travel from “high risk” states, however, vacationers from such areas must stay longer than the 14-day quarantine established by Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive orders, which all guests from “high risk” areas must follow.

The plan can be found at mymanatee.org.

— Ryan Paice

Top Notch Week 3: Nestled in the sand

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Week 3: Nestled in the sand Doug Blunt of Bradenton took this Top Notch photo of black skimmers at Lido Beach July 7. The photographer won an Islander “More-than-a-mullet wrapper” T-shirt and entry into the finals, which offers a grand prize of $100 from The Islander and gift certificates from Islander advertisers, including Slim’s Place, Island Coffee Haus, Restless Natives, Mr. Bones BBQ and Cremesh European Restaurant.

Court extradites man arrested in Holmes Beach

A man arrested in Holmes Beach as a possible homicide suspect in Alabama was extradited July 14 from Manatee County back to Alabama for further questioning, according to a report by WTVY.com.

A vehicle driven by Robert Dorsey Windham, 31, of Dothan, Alabama, triggered the Holmes Beach license plate reader system May 30, which alerted officers that a homicide suspect was driving a stolen vehicle in the city.

The vehicle was registered to Windham’s aunt, Kay Singleton Branche, who was found dead May 27.

When officers asked Windham for his license, he handed them Branche’s license, as well as his Florida ID card.

Upon searching the stolen vehicle, officers found two large knives, as well as Branche’s wallet, credit cards, cellphone and laptop.

The evidence was sent for investigation to the Dothan Police Department.

The vehicle was impounded and held for the DPD.      Windham was arrested and transported to the Manatee County jail, where he remained until he was extradited July 14 to the Houston County Jail in Dothan.

As of July 22, he was being held on two counts of identity theft at $50,000 bond.

— ChrisAnn Allen

Manatee deaths on rise in 2020

More manatees died in the first half of 2020 than in the first half of any of the past five years, except 2018.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported 367 manatees died between Jan. 1 and July 10.

For the same period in 2019, 329 manatees died and the five-year average is 345.

In the first half of 2018, 459 manatees died, but the numbers spiked even higher in the second half of the year, with either red tide or blue-green algae plaguing parts of southwest Florida.

The FWC attributed about 10% or 38 of the manatee deaths to watercraft collisions.

Cold stress led to 38 deaths and 67 deaths were perinatal.

In Manatee County, the state reported 11 manatee deaths for the first half of 2020.

Man arrested on Pinellas County theft warrant

A Bradenton Beach Police Department officer arrested 25-year-old Cesar Tamez Dominguez July 19 on a Pinellas County warrant for felony grand theft.

The officer observed a vehicle parked at Coquina Beach after closing hours and the driver was told to leave but, as the man proceeded to depart, the officer ran a search on the vehicle license plate and found an arrest warrant for the registered owner.

The officer conducted a traffic stop and arrested Dominguez for alleged grand theft in Pinellas County.

Dominguez was transported to the BBPD for booking, before being transported to the Manatee County jail.

He was released the same day, after posting a $5,000 bond.

— Ryan Paice

Bountiful mangrove snapper, variety of fish keep anglers busy

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Chad Greer, visiting Anna Maria Island from St. Louis, fished inshore using shiners as bait. He hooked this catch, photo and release redfish and more, and some snook, too, all on a guided trip with Capt. Warren Girle.

Summertime fishing around Anna Maria Island continues to be good, providing action and producing smiling anglers.

In Tampa Bay, structure is prime for a variety of fish. Bottom fishing with live shiners or pinfish is resulting in mangrove snapper and gag grouper. But free-lining live shiners over structure also can entice the snappers along with some of the more ravenous species — Spanish mackerel and jack crevalle. which typically beat the snapper to the hook.

On the flats of Tampa Bay, catch-and-release snook fishing is still a good bet. Just make sure you have good tidal flow if you want to heighten the experience. The same applies for catch-and-release spotted seatrout. Good numbers of these popular buck-toothed fish are present in the deeper grass areas.

Those willing to make the voyage offshore were being rewarded with limits of American red snapper up to the season’s end July 25. Other snappers, such as mangrove and yellowtail are being caught, too, and fishing wrecks offshore is leading to some excellent action on permit and sharks.

Lastly, hard-bottom areas are a good place to look for some keeper gag and red grouper.

On my Southernaire charters, I’m collecting limits of mangrove snapper for the cooler. Fishing structure in Tampa Bay is providing good numbers of these guys. Mixed in are macks, jack crevalle, ladyfish and juvenile grouper.

Moving to the flats, the catch-and-release snook action has tapered off slightly but is still productive. Fish ranging 20-30 inches are the norm.

Catch-and-release spotted seatrout action is productive over the deep grass flats. Free-lining
live shiners as bait is doing the job. Spanish mackerel and ladyfish also are present, as well as mangrove snapper.

Capt. Warren Girle is targeting mangrove snapper over reefs and wrecks in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Baiting the hook with small live shiners is leading Girle and his clients to limits of these popular inshore snapper. Mixed in with the snapper are mackerel and juvenile grouper.

On the grass flats, Girle is finding catch-and-release spotted seatrout in good numbers for the sport anglers. Depths of 4-8 feet are producing the best action. Ladyfish and jack crevalle also are lurking on these deep flats, readily taking baits as they come across them.

Lastly, catch-and-release snook fishing along mangrove shorelines is giving Girle’s clients the thrill of hooking into a linesider.

Capt. Aaron Lowman is concentrating his efforts over the structure available around Tampa Bay. These areas are host to a variety of species, including mangrove snapper, Spanish mackerel and gag grouper. Chumming live bait is getting the fish fired up, which makes for some great light-tackle fishing.

Also in Tampa Bay, there is good catch-and-release action over the flats for snook and spotted seatrout. For the best results, Lowman suggests working a strong tidal flow.

Lastly, fishing some of the artificial reefs in the Gulf is producing some good action. Permit, bonita, goliath grouper and sharks are cruising for your bait.

Capt. Jason Stock says despite the weather being all over the boards, he’s still finding a good tarpon bite. Evening outgoing tides are producing tarpon action — if you know where to look.

Fishing around some of the nearshore reefs is yielding some catch-and-release over-slot snook, as well as goliath grouper. And both are crowd-pleasers, according to Stock.

Moving out to some of the offshore wrecks is resulting in some sizzling permit action. Lastly, American red snapper were the go-to while offshore before season wrapped up July 25.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says catch-and-release redfish are being hooked frequently by the pier anglers using live shrimp as bait. Catches are 15-30 inches with most on the smaller side.

Mangrove snapper are finding their way to the hook for a live shrimp. Limits of these fish are going into the coolers of patient anglers with a ruler. Most are 10 to 12 inches.

Lastly, jack crevalle and ladyfish are predominant when the bait schools are present. Silver spoons or crappie jigs are pretty much guaranteed to attract a bite.

Capt. David White was in pursuit of American red snapper right up to the July 25 cutoff. Limits of these aggressive fish are occurring daily. Mangrove and yellowtail are being added to the snapper aggregates while on the charters with White. Targeting grouper is yet another offshore winner. Gag and red grouper are responding to both live and frozen baits.

Moving inshore, White is finding catch-and-release snook action as well as some catch-and-release spotted seatrout for his sport anglers.

Send high-resolution photos and fishing reports to fish@islander.org.