PORT RICHEY — Parking at Whiskey River Sports Bar & Grill in Port Richey is again drawing the ire of nearby residents.
Customer parking at the riverside restaurant on Limestone Drive has been the subject of great debate at City Hall for years, and familiar faces again appeared at a City Council meeting Tuesday to complain.
Jim Hoster, and former council members Jim Priest and Bill Bennett, who live near Whiskey River, voiced their concern — as they did in January — over parking issues at the popular restaurant. The residents contend that the city has not fully enforced a 2010 court order that tossed out two variances the city allowed for more parking at Whiskey River. City Manager Tom O'Neill told the council according to the court order the restaurant's parking had to be reverted to its status prior to the variances.
But Hoster told the council that Whiskey River has still failed to construct a mandated buffer on an overflow parking lot maintained by the restaurant. Hoster also said that a re-striping effort on the restaurant's main parking lot left previous striping exposed, which has led to continued parking problems.
Whiskey River owner Ed Burbach expressed frustration about the complaints. He said at the city's request he has re-striped his parking lot, landscaped his property and is in the process of implementing a free valet service, using a nearby business' parking lot.
City Manager Tom O'Neill said the building department recently gave approval of the re-striping of the lot upon inspection, but would take another look to see if the appearance of the old lines could be addressed. He also said the city would look at progress on a buffer for the overflow lot.
But O'Neill warned that enforcing the code that mandates a buffer could be an issue as it allows the property owner a wide-range of options including landscaping, fencing, or even a wall. "The property owner could put, for an example, a stockade fence on the front, and likewise on the rear,'' O'Neill said. "In my opinion that's not an attractive situation."
Instead, O'Neill offered that the city install its own public-right-of-way landscaping on nearby Pier Road he said would beautify the area and establish a buffer for residents from the overflow lot, as well as curb illegal parking on public property near the restaurant.
Council members encouraged movement on O'Neill's landscaping plan, but some also wanted enforcement of the court order.