TAMPA — The Tampa City Council gave initial approval Thursday to a controversial wet zoning that pitted an award-winning local brewery against neighbors who opposed the business' beer-tasting room.
Council members voted 4-3 in favor of Cigar City Brewing's request to make the temporary approval for its tasting room on W Spruce Street permanent.
Joseph Caetano, Yvonne Yolie Capin, Charlie Miranda, and Mary Mulhern supported the request. Thomas Scott, Gwen Miller and Curtis Stokes were opposed.
The council is scheduled to take a final vote at 9:30 a.m. Dec. 16. In November, the council had tied 3-3, with Miranda absent.
Thursday's vote came after more than two dozen people, most of them supporting the brewery, said the council should allow the tasting room to stay. Taking it away, they said, would hurt the business.
"I'm asking the City Council to let me keep my job," Cigar City production manager Doug Dozark said.
Supporters included patrons, other business owners and even competitors who said Cigar City's ability to thrive in the recession, going from two to 23 employees, is something the city should support.
Prior to Thursday, Miranda, who voted for the temporary wet zoning, had not said whether he would vote to make it permanent. He did say he wanted to protect the neighborhood and is always concerned about another business serving alcohol.
But after brewery owner Joey Redner posted an appeal on his company's website, fans of the brewery from all over the country swamped Miranda's office with calls and e-mails.
With that broad base of support, Miranda suggested that denying the wet zoning would likely lead to a lawsuit where Cigar City could make a strong case that it lost business because of the council's vote.
"I'm not afraid of a lawsuit," Miranda said. "I just don't like to lose them."
Opposing the tasting room were residents of Lincoln Gardens, which shares a neighborhood association with nearby Carver City.One home is just 97 feet from the brewery, which occupies a building owned by Redner's father, Mons Venus strip club owner Joe Redner.
Neighborhood leaders say the tasting room has increased traffic and crime, though police report few calls to the business.
"I'm against the brewery," said lifelong Carver City resident Altheria Wright, 47. "We're trying to get alcohol and drugs out of our black community."
Neighborhood leaders tried unsuccessfully to challenge the wet zoning in court. After Thursday's vote, Maurice Harvey, president of the Lincoln Gardens-Carver City Neighborhood Association, said another legal challenge is possible.
Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.