Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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She called for the Swigwam's sidewalk privileges to be rescinded because of what she says were growing complaints from other businesses and patrons along Corey Avenue.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

St. Pete Beach rescinds Swigwam Beach Bar's sidewalk alcohol agreement 07/03/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 3, 2012 4:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 12 FSU, freshman QB James Blackman struggle in 27-21 loss to N.C. State


    TALLAHASSEE — Whatever was left of No. 12 Florida State's College Football Playoff hopes suffered a massive, likely fatal, blow Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium.

    Florida State Seminoles wide receiver Nyqwan Murray (8) carries during the first quarter of the Florida State Seminoles game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on September 23, 2017, at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla.  At the half, North Carolina State Wolfpack 17, Florida State Seminoles 10.
  2. Trump tells Warriors star Stephen Curry that White House visit is off


    SOMERSET, N.J. — Stephen Curry and President Donald Trump agree on one thing: The Golden State star is not going to the White House anytime soon.

    Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry poses for photos during NBA basketball team media day Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, in Oakland, Calif. [Associated Press]
  3. For starters: Rays at Orioles, facing another old friend in Jeremy Hellickson


    UPDATE, 3:29: Here is the Rays lineup, with Duda at 1B and Morrison the DH:

  4. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  5. Charles Bradley, acclaimed Florida soul singer, dies at 68


    Acclaimed Florida R&B powerhouse Charles Bradley, whose raw, pained voice earned him the nickname the Screaming Eagle of Soul, has died of cancer at 68, his representatives announced Saturday.

    Charles Bradley performed at the 2016 Gasparilla Music Festival.