NEW PORT RICHEY — The owner of a New Port Richey restaurant that proclaims on its website to have "The Best Patio Party in Tampa Bay" has apologized to its landlord for that noise and promised to tone it down.
The restaurant’s landlord is the City of New Port Richey, which could terminate its lease with the Dulcet Restaurant & Lounge over the noise complaints. The city allowed the patio party to launch in a pocket park known as Cavalaire Square.
When the city entered into the five-year lease in 2014, Dulcet opened to great fanfare at 6220 Grand Blvd., with hopes that an upscale restaurant in the heart of the city could help spur a downtown renaissance.
The restaurant asked the city to use the square, located on Missouri Avenue, to offer music and outdoor dining. At the time, the New Port Richey City Council raved about the idea, welcoming a use for Cavalaire Square, which until then mostly went unused.
That relationship has soured as complaints rolled in about late-night music concerts. Frustrations came to a head during a Feb. 20 council meeting when yet another group of residents complained about the music.
"This has been ongoing for such a long time. I just don’t see how it goes on this long," said Deputy Mayor Jeff Starkey. "It’s been two years. Shut it down."
Two days later, City Manager Debbie Manns sent a letter to Dulcet owner Doreen Scott, saying the restaurant had breached its lease, which was "based on a proposal for family dining and light music."
Instead, Manns wrote: "You have conducted events that are more characteristic of a night club or concert use, such as drinking and party events, and bands on a stage. Specifically, the ‘patio parties’ you conduct on the property violate your lease agreement."
The letter also said Dulcet constructed a stage on the property and other amenities not approved by the city, as required by the lease. She ordered them removed and gave the restaurant 10 days to respond with an intent to comply.
Scott apologized at Tuesday’s council meeting, and said Dulcet will turn down the music and work with the city to address any problems.
"We love New Port Richey, and we want to stay here," Scott said.
Council members made no comment, but Manns and City Attorney Timothy Driscoll later told the Tampa Bay Times that the city will give Dulcet an opportunity to address its concerns before seeking to terminate the lease, which expires in September 2019. Dulcet also has two noise ordinance violations before the city’s special magistrate, Manns said.
"It’s a fluid situation," Driscoll said.