Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

Safety Harbor will let bar build deck on public property

SAFETY HARBOR — On a patch of city-owned land downtown, the Harbor Bar may build a shaded wooden deck with a Margaritaville-themed mini-bar, six tables and a big-screen television.

The deck would be public space, where residents and city workers could bring their lunches, laptops and kids, but only until 3 p.m. on weekdays and 1 p.m. on weekends. After those times, Harbor Bar, which sells beer and liquor but no food at 844 Main St., would allow only paying customers on the deck.

It's an unusual arrangement that was approved with little discussion by city commissioners in March.

However, city officials are poised to revisit the details Monday after Commissioner Richard Blake expressed concerns about the contract terms.

At issue is how long the city wants to commit to Harbor Bar, which would get free use of city land in exchange for financing the estimated $25,000 deck and opening the space to the public during certain hours.

Under the original deal, the city could not interfere with the deck for at least 10 years as long as Harbor Bar met maintenance and other obligations.

But commissioners recently had second thoughts, agreeing they would feel more comfortable with a five-year timetable.

"I feel like I definitely missed something at the last meeting about the terms of this agreement," Blake said. "I don't think the city should lock themselves into giving up that land for a 10-year period."

The commission directed City Manager Matt Spoor to approach Harbor Bar manager John Zemzicki with the five-year offer, which would include one-year renewals.

But the shorter time frame might make it difficult to recoup the bar's investment, Zemzicki said. Who knows how many customers would flock to the deck, which would be shaded by three trees, but wouldn't have a roof or umbrellas?

"Figuring out profit and loss is difficult," Zemzicki said. "We could have five years of sunshine or we could have eight hurricanes and a tree could fall on the deck."

Commissioners Monday will consider a six- or seven-year counteroffer, with one- or two-year renewals.

Zemzicki said he's grateful to commissioners for making the deck space an option, so he plans to be flexible on deal terms.

Liability, maintenance, landscaping and insurance would all be Harbor Bar's responsibility, according to the contract provided by the city. If Harbor Bar goes out of business or otherwise breaks obligations, the city can maintain the deck as a public space.

The bar, which is open until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends, would also have limits on amplified music and raucous noises.

In other words, the karaoke machine would stay indoors.

"We'll look for someone to play something acoustic outside," Zemzicki said.

Contact Brittany Alana Davis at [email protected] or (850) 323-0353.

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