To the people who operate Sharky's, a restaurant and bar on ClearwaterBeach, staying open until 2 a.m. seemed reasonable.
"We have tried our very, very best to be a good part of the
neighborhood," said Walt Rozanski, one of the owners of the restaurant.
But to nearby residents, the request revived memories of Dock of the Bay, a notoriously raucous restaurant and lounge that once occupied the same site.
"When you've been burned once before, you don't want to get burned again," said Paul Scholz, who lives near the restaurant.
The Planning and Zoning Board voted 7-0 on Tuesday to deny Sharky's request to stay open past midnight, its current closing time. But the board also agreed to allow Sharky's to continue selling alcoholic beverages, now that the restaurant has been operating for six months without serious problems.
Sharky's is at 735 Bayway Blvd., on the south end of Clearwater Beach, and is close to several condominiums.
Those condominium owners appeared before the planning board in August when the new restaurant applied for permission to sell alcoholic beverages. They were afraid the old problems of Dock of the Bay could resume.
At that hearing, the board voted to allow the alcoholic beverage sales on a six-month trial basis. The board also set the restaurant's closing time at midnight, not at 1 a.m. as requested.
The owners of Sharky's said they shouldn't be penalized for the notoriety of the other restaurant, which they did not own.
The residents appeared before the board again Tuesday. Allowing Sharky's to stay open until 2 a.m. probably would attract people who already have done a lot of drinking, said nearby resident Audrey Thomas.
"A drunk is a drunk is a drunk," she said.
Jack Dowling, a private investigator hired by the Bel Crest Beach Resort at 706 Bayway Blvd., said he visited the restaurant several times. He said most of the customers at the restaurant were consuming alcoholic beverages. He also said he saw a sign that urged restaurant customers to come to the planning board hearing, promising a party afterward.
But several others said they believed the restaurant was quiet and
"I live right across the street and there has never been a problem," Judy Armstrong said.
"I can't understand why they were ever denied in the first place," she said. "There is never any noise there."
Ray Green, one of the owners of Sharky's, said he never would have bought an intereste in the restaurant if he had realized he would have to close at midnight. He said he wasn't aware that the city would make him close earlier than 2 a.m., which was the closing time of the restaurant he and his partners purchased.