Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

St. Pete Beach rescinds Swigwam Beach Bar's sidewalk alcohol agreement

st. PETE BEACH — Patrons of the Swigwam Beach Bar have less than 30 days left to enjoy imbibing from their sidewalk seats.

Last week, the City Commission invoked a 30-day notice clause to cancel a two-year-old agreement that allowed outdoor seating on the sidewalk where patrons could take their drinks and smoke in the open air.

When some audience members wanted to speak in defense of the Swigwam, Mayor Steve McFarlin flatly refused, drawing loud protests.

"There is not going to be any public discussion. It's not the attending mob rules," McFarlin told the upset audience as he called for a vote.

The 3-2 decision was a mirror image of the original 3-2 decision to allow the sidewalk drinking.

The changed vote was the result of the outcome of the March election when Lorraine Huhn won the District 1 commission seat.

She called for the Swigwam's sidewalk privileges to be rescinded because of what she says were growing complaints from other businesses and patrons along Corey Avenue.

"I had a flood of calls from other business owners," Huhn said, explaining that other business owners complain how the Swigwam, at 336 Corey Ave., is unable to prevent its customers from blocking the sidewalk and intimidating passers-by.

Former District 1 Commissioner Al Halpern criticized the commission decision, saying the Swigwam and other businesses like it help to create "the vibrant beach atmosphere that's expected by our visitors."

McFarlin was particularly strident in his continued opposition to the Swigwam's use of the sidewalk, describing at length how his daughter was subjected to catcalls from patrons when she was driving by in her car.

"I am going to be real simple with this. We tried something and the fears we had came to fruition," McFarlin said. "What we did was bring barroom activity out on the street."

McFarlin said the behavior of many of the Swigwam patrons has been "offensive and intimidating to a lot of people."

Commissioner Bev Garnett agreed, saying that the height of the Adirondack-style chairs outside the Swigwam put the patrons "right in the face" of people walking on the sidewalk.

Garnett, who voted to rescind the sidewalk agreement, did say she would be willing to reconsider in the future if the Swigwam could find a "workable solution."

Huhn said she had tried finding a compromise, but other Corey businesses objected.

Swigwam owner Rob Williams said he had been blindsided two weeks before when Huhn first proposed canceling the agreement and then again that day when she called him two hours before the commission meeting to tell him she would no longer support any compromise.

Williams had proposed turning the Adirondack chairs sideways instead of facing the street to provide more free walking space on the sidewalk.

He also showed pictures of other businesses, bars and restaurants on Corey and in Pass-a-Grille that are allowed to have outside seating.

"I don't think it is fair," Williams said.

He said since he opened the Swigwam more than two years ago, seven new businesses have opened or are about to open on that section of Corey Avenue.

"We are exactly what Corey needs," he said. "We need more bars, more restaurants, more people on the street."

Commissioners Jim Parent and Marvin Shavlan unsuccessfully argued that a poll of other Corey Avenue business owners found the majority actually favor the Swigwam's sidewalk seating.

"This is an exquisitely difficult thing," said Parent, adding that personality conflicts among Corey business owners have "stirred things up."

Shavlan said he never saw a problem in the many times he has been on Corey Avenue.

"To rescind it seems a little harsh," he said.

Ironically, about 2 feet of the sidewalk in front of the Swigwam is private property owned by building's owner and the Swigwam's liquor license allows outside service, according to Williams and Shavlan.

That means that even after the sidewalk alcohol agreement ends, Swigwam patrons can still bring their drinks outside and smoke as long as they stay within that 2-foot space.

They can't step on the sidewalk if they are holding alcohol, however, since it is illegal according to city codes.

Comments
Suspect identified in string of carjackings from Orlando to Plant City

Suspect identified in string of carjackings from Orlando to Plant City

PLANT CITY — The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has identified the suspect in a string of carjackings from Orlando to Plant City.Deputies are searching for Majar L. Jones, 43, of Orlando.Jones may still be in a stolen 2002 green Ford F-150 with...
Updated: 11 minutes ago
The Daystarter: Lightning’s next opponent and playoffs’ economic impact; Rick Scott earns political victory; what goes on in that pink house?; it’s draft day for Bucs

The Daystarter: Lightning’s next opponent and playoffs’ economic impact; Rick Scott earns political victory; what goes on in that pink house?; it’s draft day for Bucs

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Another sunny day today with high temperatures in the low 80s, according to 10Weather WTSP. Friday brings the possibility of rain, and the weekend brings the heat: Sunday’s high is in...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Aside from former Florida State safety Derwin James, the most likely first-round pick from a state college is ex-Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan.He hopes, at least."That would (stink) if I didn't," Bryan said last month at Florida's pro da...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

TAMPA — As the Tampa Bay Lightning wait for its next playoff opponent to come to town, the city’s business community — large and small — say they’ve already won this NHL postseason.At WestShore Plaza this week, with blue and white banners surrounding...
Updated: 1 hour ago
SOCom leader wanted to toss Google exec from car. Because he was right.

SOCom leader wanted to toss Google exec from car. Because he was right.

TAMPA — Standing in front of an audience of several thousand scientists, data wonks, geospatial intelligence analysts and other big thinkers, Army Gen. Tony Thomas drew some laughs when he talked about the time he felt the urge to toss Google CEO Eri...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The last cigar factory in Tampa keeps rolling

The last cigar factory in Tampa keeps rolling

YBOR CITY -- History lives here, inside the J.C. Newman Cigar Co.Machines manufactured in the 1930s are still used to pack and roll the cigars, and the sights and smells are throwbacks. Tobacco bits litter the weathered wooden floor, and a pungent od...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: Is it still environmentally conscious if it’s based on a sham?

Romano: Is it still environmentally conscious if it’s based on a sham?

Let’s discuss biosolids waste. I promise, it won’t be gross or boring.No, this is more of a how-did-we-lose-money-again bedtime story.Our tale begins around 2006 when St. Pete officials began exploring a biosolids project. The city was eventually goi...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

TAMPA —These smart phones and computers and internet are big annoyances to Sister Madonna Buder.Every time she turns around, there's a message or a request or a question coming into one of her devices from somewhere in the world."What's all the...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Long wait at Wingstop ends in brawl, hot oil and 2nd degree burns

Long wait at Wingstop ends in brawl, hot oil and 2nd degree burns

TAMPA — A customer visited Wingstop on Sunday night to pick-up his order. What happened next was off-menu:Robert Williams said he suffered second-degree burns on his back and legs after a Wingstop employee threw hot oil on him during a scuffle.Willia...
Updated: 8 hours ago
FHP identifies driver in crash that killed

FHP identifies driver in crash that killed "smiling" teen

TRINITY — Friends said what they’ll remember the most about Lillia Morris is that she was always smiling.The 17-year-old Mitchell High School junior was killed Tuesday when a sport-utility vehicle ran a red light on State Road 54 and slammed into the...
Updated: 9 hours ago