CLEARWATER — A campaign to allow alcohol sales outside a beachfront cafe earned its first victory Tuesday, a move the owners of Britt's Island Grill say could help save their business.
Unlike nearby cafes Crabby Bill's and Frenchy's South Beach, Britt's was banned from serving alcohol outside because its patio crossed over into a public right of way where alcohol sales are not allowed.
Saying the ban devastated their business and forced them to lay off half their staff, Britt's leaders launched a "Free the Patio" campaign and pushed for changes to city zoning rules to fix the problem.
On Tuesday, the Community Development Board voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council relax the rules. The change would allow outside alcohol sales for the Britt's patio and other sidewalk cafes adjacent to a segment of the city's $20 million BeachWalk promenade.
Britt's will still need two City Council votes of approval before it can begin serving alcoholic drinks outside. The first vote is scheduled for tonight and the second early next month.
Britt's assistant general manager, Mike Govoruhk, said Tuesday the change would please beachgoers and allow the restaurant to bring back its workforce.
"It's very exciting we'll be able to have alcohol out there again so people can enjoy the sunsets," Govoruhk said. "We'll be able to rehire some of the people we laid off in the beginning. We'll see how busy we can be."