TAMPA —Facing a roomful of people from a largely black South Tampa neighborhood who accused members of being racist, the City Council voted Thursday to let Joe Redner sell beer at his microbrewery for another year.
"I do not think you should feel this has anything to do with your neighborhood, your culture, your history, your color. It is not about that," council member Mary Mulhern said before the vote.
As the crowd shook their heads and some called out, "Yes it is," council chairman Tom Scott banged the gavel.
"It is not," Mulhern continued. "Not for me."
Residents of the Lincoln Gardens/Carver City neighborhood near Dale Mabry Highway and Boy Scout Boulevard have been fighting Redner's Cigar City Brewery since it opened in a warehouse on Spruce Street in 2008.
"Council, I have one thing to say to you," member Gwen Miller said before the vote. "This is the third or fourth time Lincoln Gardens/Carver City has been down here asking for your help. I'm asking you to show Lincoln Gardens and Carver City the same respect that you give other neighborhoods."
The final vote was divided along racial lines, with chairman Tom Scott and Miller supporting the neighborhood. The remaining four members voted in Redner's favor. Council member Charlie Miranda was absent.
Last year, as a concession to the neighborhoods, Redner received a one-year conditional liquor license. It expired in July.
About two dozen residents — including Carolyn Collins, president of the Hillsborough Chapter of the NAACP — turned out Thursday to oppose the renewal and a request for expanded hours.
Maurice Harvey, president of the Carver City/Lincoln Gardens Neighborhood Association, said the business brings noise and traffic to the area. In the past year, he said, there were 13 police calls at the property, which houses the brewery and a few other businesses owned by Redner.
The neighborhood, now boxed in by commercial development, was built specifically for black World War II veterans, Dolores Sims told the council.
She recalled that 50 years ago she and her husband tried to move into homes built for veterans on West Shore Boulevard.
"We was told that we couldn't move in because that was for white veterans only, so they designated this for us," Sims said. "We're very proud of our neighborhood."
Alpheria Wright, who is in his 40s, observed that he was possibly the youngest person from the neighborhood in the audience.
"I have a great deal of respect for my elders," he said, and urged the council to respect them also.
Mary Bryant questioned why the council was willing to allow Redner to operate near homes and wet-zoned businesses.
"I'm not against a person running a business. But please look at the public, too," she said. "It impacts our community adversely."
Redner said it's not his fault that people drink alcohol and commit crimes.
"It has nothing to do with my business," he said. "It has to do with problems we have in society today."
Council member Linda Saul-Sena assured residents that her support for Redner had nothing to do with a lack of respect. She just didn't see any evidence that the brewery had a negative impact on the neighborhood.
Mulhern said she also saw no legal reason to deny the license and noted that she has voted in favor of many liquor licenses in her own neighborhood near South Howard Avenue.
Resident Carolyn Collins, president of the Hillsborough Chapter of the NAACP, said the brewery should never have been allowed to open.
"A waiver was given that I don't think would have been allowed in a more prominent white neighborhood," she said later.
After the vote, Scott said he sympathized with the neighborhood.
"I don't like to play the race card when clearly that is not the issue," he said.
But he did note that the City Council typically supports neighborhoods when they come out in large numbers.
Janet Zink can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3401.