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Date of Issue: December 30, 2009

Planning board balks at distance rules for liquor sales

The Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board pressed forward Dec. 15 with a plan to set up a conditional-use permit process for liquor sales in the city.

The board, meeting at city hall, also detailed what conditions it wants involved in a conditional-use review process, which would be separate from the state’s stringent review of applications for a variety of liquor licenses.

The board members generally agreed that they did not favor a distance separation for establishments selling liquor. Such a separation currently exists for Bridge Street.

The review of the city rules for liquor sales began when resident and business-owner Jo Ann Meilner, also a member of the planning and zoning board, began the process of obtaining permission to sell beer and wine at the Back Alley, an art gallery and coffee shop on Bridge Street.

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.

Meilner was stumped — a number of Bridge Street businesses, within 200 feet of one another, sell liquor.

She drafted a request to change the regulation, proposing that it be deleted from the LDC.

Next came discussions, held by the planning board and the city commission, over whether the provision should be deleted, and what, if anything, should be put in its place.

The city commission provided some direction at a meeting in November, agreeing that a new ordinance should be drafted to provide that businesses seeking a liquor license from the Florida Division of Alcohol and Tobacco obtain a city conditional-use permit for liquor sales, that the permit be renewed annually, that minimum distances separate licensed establishments and that the ordinance be applied citywide.

Planning board members last week questioned the need for the distance separation and different criteria for fully licensed bars, restaurants and boutique businesses selling beer and wine.

“Doesn’t it seem that we’ll end up in the exact same situation?” said planning board chair Rick Bisio. “I think we should take the distance thing out. This is the reason why we are here.”

“Distance,” said Meilner, “is capricious.”

Instead, she and others on the board emphasized, the city should establish clear criteria for issuing a conditional-use permit, as well as terminating the permit.

Such criteria, based on the discussion last week, would include compliance with city code and health and safety regulations, payment of city fees and a review by police, fire, planning and zoning and code enforcement officials and the clerk’s office.

The next step is for the city attorney to take direction from the planning board and draft an ordinance for review, said building official Steve Gilbert.

He added that the city commission might review a draft as early as Jan. 7.

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