SAFETY HARBOR — Harbor Bar will have its Margaritaville-themed deck after all.
But it won't be on city land. It will be on the bar's private property.
The 1,600-square-foot deck is under construction in front of Harbor Bar at 844 Main St.
It won't be shaded by trees like it would have been on the city land next door. But people can lounge under colorful umbrellas as they have margaritas or daiquiris and listen to acoustic music.
Brady's Backyard BBQ will cater a party on the deck July 6 to celebrate the opening.
"It would've been nice to work with the city, but this is better," said Harbor Bar manager Johnny Zemzicki. "Now we can make our own decisions about what's good for the business."
Commissioners had approved but then torpedoed a plan in April for Harbor Bar to build a deck on a city-owned parcel beside the bar.
Under the failed proposal, the bar would have built the deck at its own expense, but opened the space up to the public during the day in exchange for use of the land.
Commissioners stalled the deck's construction after the Tampa Bay Times wrote a story about the arrangement and residents voiced concerns at City Hall about noise and the flicker of television screens in the neighborhood. Opponents also questioned the fairness of supplying one business with land and not another.
In some ways, bar competition in downtown Safety Harbor is stiff. Just across the street, Safety Harbor Grill & Bar and Whistle Stop Grill & Bar both have decks.
Harbor Bar, just a few steps from City Hall, may be one of the more noticeable buildings on Main Street. The bar has a local feel, and bartenders go out of their way to remember the regulars' names and favorite drinks. It's dark and smoky inside even during the day. On a weekend night, 300 to 500 customers might stop by, Zemzicki said.
When the bar had a different owner, some say it had a seedy reputation. But Zemzicki has added fresh paint, hardwood floors and a karaoke stage. He wants the outdoor space to be an extension of his effort to clean the place up.
And he wants to avoid irritating residents who complained about the deck's potential to be disruptive. He plans to keep the television and loud music indoors, for example.
And at the new outside mini-bar, he said, customers will have the option of milkshakes and virgin drinks rather than alcoholic beverages. The menu's new non-alcoholic section will be named "Sophie's Smoothies," after his newborn daughter, Sophia, Zemzicki said with a laugh.
"We want the community to be happy with us and feel comfortable here," he said. "If people are not happy, they're not going to come here."
Still, some neighbors are concerned.
Darryl See, 34, who lives directly behind the bar, said he already hears bar patrons at night. And he can only see it getting worse.
"Safety Harbor used to be so quiet. That's why we moved here," he said, adding that he teaches meditation and other healing practices in his home and loud noise disrupts his business. "Now it's a big party just like Dunedin."
Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at [email protected] or 850-323-0353. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters or mail to 1130 Cleveland St., Suite 100, Clearwater, FL 33755.