Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Swigwam Beach Bar in St. Pete Beach keeps its sidewalk seating, despite complaints, commission decides

ST. PETE BEACH — At the same time the city is considering rerouting traffic on Gulf Boulevard to boost the profile of the Corey Avenue business district, last week the commission nearly shut down one of the district's most popular businesses, the Swigwam Beach Bar.

The 3-2 vote to allow the bar to continue to sell alcohol to patrons sitting in chairs on the sidewalk outside the bar echoed an equally sharp split among Corey Avenue business owners.

Voting to keep Swigwam customers' ability to imbibe and smoke in the open air on the 10-foot-wide public sidewalk were Commissioners Al Halpern, Jim Parent and Marvin Shavlan.

Both Mayor Steve McFarlin and Commissioner Bev Garnett voted "no," objecting mostly to smoke that might irritate passers-by.

About a year ago, the commission granted the Swigwam permission to sell alcohol to customers seated in chairs on the sidewalk outside the bar at 336 Corey Ave.

In recent months, complaints from nearby businesses escalated. In response, the city was asked to rescind the sidewalk permit.

Particularly at issue were reports that inebriated Swigwam patrons intimidated and drove away other businesses' customers.

Twenty-two members of a virtually standing-room-only audience argued both for and against the Swigwam's permit for six sidewalk chairs.

Several business owners, one nearly in tears, demanded that the city shut down the Swigwam sidewalk business.

At the same time, many other business owners, including the president of the Corey Avenue Business Association, strongly defended the Swigwam and its customers, arguing there were no real problems and the bar helped to bring people to the Corey Avenue district.

"I am really not happy with how this was campaigned behind my back. Nobody has come to me and complained," Swigwam owner Robert Williams said. "Where is the proof? My business is at stake. I am proud of what we have done."

Some of his business neighbors adamantly disagreed.

"Rob is a nice guy, the business is nice to have. But happy hour? No," said the owner of Vincent William Gallery.

He said several women came into his store and said they were afraid to walk by the Swigwam.

The owner of a pet grooming business said she lost at least one customer who was "uncomfortable" walking by the bar.

"They drink, they spill their drinks, they come into my store with their drinks. I have shelves full of glass, pottery and jewelry. I am sorry but that is not what we need," Annette Kapfer, owner of the Kapfer Glass Studio, said, her voice noticeably quavering.

Other Corey Avenue business owners strongly defended the Swigwam.

The owner of the Simply Perfect gift shop, directly across Corey Avenue, said the Swigwam is good for business.

"I have never seen a problem," said Jeremy Shaefer, owner of the Wheelhouse Pizza and Deli, next door to the Swigwam.

Many of the 400 people who signed Williams' petition opposing rescinding the sidewalk liquor sales also appeared at the commission meeting.

One resident, who said he was a founding dean of the USF School of Medicine, retired to St. Pete Beach and, along with his white cockatoo, is a regular Swigwam customer.

"The Swigwam has an international reputation," he said. "I have never witnessed any problems."

Another customer who said he is Tampa's chief deputy property appraiser and a weekend city resident, called the Swigwam "a very special place" that attracts a mostly professional and retired clientele.

Jeff Janson, CABA president, said Corey Avenue was "all but a blighted area" when he started his Point of You Interior Design business in 2006.

"Today we have a revitalized business district with people reinvesting," Janson said.

Parent said he found it "awkward" for the city to "step in between business relationships."

Commissioner Shavlan said he spent several days visiting Corey Avenue at different times of the day and found the Swigwam to be a "positive thing" for the business district.

Swigwam Beach Bar in St. Pete Beach keeps its sidewalk seating, despite complaints, commission decides 11/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 5:31pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Heights Public Market to host two Tampa Bay food trucks


    TAMPA — The Heights Public Market announced the first two food trucks for its "rotating stall," which will feature new restaurants every four months. Surf and Turf and Empamamas will be rolled out first.

    Heights Public Market is opening this summer inside the Tampa Armature Works building.
[SKIP O'ROURKE   |   Times file photo]

  2. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery


    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]
  3. Author Randy Wayne White could open St. Pete's biggest restaurant on the pier

    Food & Dining

    ST. PETERSBURG — The story begins with Yucatan shrimp.

    St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin, pilot Mark Futch, Boca Grande, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, and author and businessman Randy Wayne White,  Sanibel, exit a Maule Super Rocket seaplane after taking a fight around Tampa Bay off the St. Petersburg waterfront, 6/28/17.  White and his business partners are in negotiations with the City of St. Petersburg to build a fourth Doc Ford's Rum Bar & Grille on the approach to the St. Petersburg Pier with a second event space on the pier according to White. The group met near Spa Beach after a ground breaking ceremony for the new pier. "We want to have our business open by the time the pier opens," said White. Other Dr. Ford restaurants are located on Sanibel, Captiva and Ft. Myers Beach. SCOTT KEELER   |   Times
  4. Busted: How a Times photographer captured Donald Trump's fake news


    Tampa Bay Times photojournalist Scott Keeler was on assignment last summer for a story about Donald Trump’s presence in Palm Beach, a tale of glamour and conflict. Along the way he inadvertently captured evidence of a …

    Near the main entrance at Mar-a-Lago, the fake Time magazine cover is on display in July 2016.
  5. Jones: Steve Yzerman's plan for getting the Lightning back into the playoffs

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Seems like forever since the Lightning played a hockey game.

    If the Lightning season started right now, would Steve Yzerman be happy with what he has? "We're still a couple of players short,'' Yzerman said.. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]