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To settle lawsuit, Tampa City Council okays liquor for Soho Saloon

TAMPA — The Soho Saloon will get to serve liquor, and in return it will change the way it does business.

That's the essence of a City Council vote Thursday to settle a federal lawsuit over whether the saloon can add cocktails to a menu that already includes beer and wine.

Located at 410 S Howard Ave., the saloon is surrounded by bars, including MacDinton's Irish Pub, in a neighborhood where the growing bar scene is crowding residential areas, gobbling up parking and aggravating homeowners.

The saloon sued the city in March after the council voted 4-3 to deny its request to add mixed drinks to its special use permit and waive three city rules.

In the settlement, no money will change hands, but the saloon agreed to:

• Reduce its hours, opening no earlier than 5 p.m. during the week, though it will still be able to stay open until 3 a.m.

• Stop playing live music outdoors at 11 p.m.

• Give up its current ability to sell alcohol in sealed packages for carry-out.

• Pay to have licensed security officers on duty Thursday through Saturday from 10 p.m. to an hour after it closes for the night.

• Be licensed and operate as a restaurant.

Another big change was that the saloon was no longer seeking a waiver from city parking rules.

Instead, it did a parking study and qualified under the city's code to lease parking off site. Because the city used something called a "design exception" and not a waiver to tie the saloon to its parking obligations, officials said the business could lose its permit to serve drinks if it falters.

"This compromise plan is reasonable and agreeable to both parties," said David Singer, a Tampa attorney for the saloon. "Frankly, the two sides, over the course of the year, haven't agreed on much, but we agree on this."

The council approved the settlement 5-2. Mary Mulhern and Charlie Miranda voted no.

Report due in June on Cuscaden Pool fixes

After a year of lobbying, the council will get a report June 5 on possible fixes to the historic Cuscaden Park pool.

"The administration has heard loud and clear the concerns of the council and the concerns of the residents," city economic opportunity administrator Bob McDonaugh said. "We recognize its historic importance."

The city has a $1.5 million estimate for construction to reopen the pool, but private swimming pool engineers and contractors recently warned that the city could have to budget an additional $300,000 a year because the cracks would return.

In the next 120 days, McDonaugh said officials will try to take a comprehensive look at what can be done with the oval-shaped, above-ground pool.

"We will come back with a plan to City Council for a long-term, sustainable use for that project," McDonaugh said. "I can't promise that it is rebuilding the pool in place. We've had various opinions by experts as to whether that's doable or not."

City officials have said money to fix the pool won't be available until the 2015 budget year.

Built in 1937, the pool closed because of leaks in 1997. The city spent $2.5 million on repairs in 2005 but closed the pool again in 2009 when cracks, leaks and a faulty filtration system made it too costly to keep open.

Academy Prep Center of Tampa fifth-graders Winnie Augustin and Brenton Budhoo, whose school is across the street from the pool, said their classmates should be able to learn to swim there.

"Another reason to provide funding for this pool is so that other kids in our community can have a place to have fuuun," Winnie said. "Giving more money to this pool would very much help our community."

Taxpayer incentives for IT firm pledged

The council voted to pledge up to $100,800 to a local information technology company looking to expand its headquarters.

The company's name is a secret under a business recruitment exemption to Florida's Public Records Law, but it recently acquired some other companies outside of Florida. It is looking to hire 112 new employees by 2016.

Those new hires could work in Tampa at a $1.28 million expansion, but the company also is looking at London and the states of Washington and California.

The company has committed to pay an average of $47,581 a year — 115 percent of Florida's average wage — for the new jobs.

The city's contribution would be at least $56,000, but could be $100,800 if the company locates in one of Tampa's community redevelopment areas. The state would kick in an additional $448,000.

Bayshore Boulevard improvements okayed

Council members voted to accept nearly $450,000 in state transportation money for a project to add a southbound bicycle lane and other upgrades to Bayshore Boulevard from S Howard Avenue to S Rome Avenue.

The work could mean reducing the six-lane road to four lanes. Officials plan to seek bids for the work as soon as April.

To settle lawsuit, Tampa City Council okays liquor for Soho Saloon 01/23/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 23, 2014 11:14pm]
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