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Clearwater approves sale of beer, wine at restaurant

City commissioners voted 3-2 Thursday to let a Clearwater Beach restaurant sell beer and wine, but not before raising questions about the cafe's closeness to other businesses with liquor licenses. Chubby's Cafe & Pizza seems to have beaten the odds in its effort to sell beer and wine at the restaurant, which already is open.

The owners of the cafe at 490 Mandalay Ave. in October asked the Planning and Zoning Board for permission to sell alcoholic beverages. They didn't get far. The board voted 5-2 to reject the plan, saying there were too many places on the beach that sell alcohol.

But last month the owners came back before the board and won approval with a 6-0 vote, with one member absent. Board members said one reason for their change of heart was that no nearby residents showed up to oppose the beer and wine sales, as they did the first time.

The restaurateurs went before the City Commission on Thursday because the commission must approve beer and wine sales at locations that are close to residential areas or other establishments with liquor licenses.

Commissioner Lee Regulski pointed out that Fritz's Market also sells alcoholic beverages and it is in the same complex, Gionis Plaza. One reason the commissioners approved a similar request for Fritz's Market to sell alcoholic beverages was the fact that Chubby's didn't sell any, Regulski said.

But Commissioner Don Winner had a different point of view.

"Our problem is not now and never was the number of alcohol establishments," Winner said. The problem, he said, is the number of establishments that aren't properly managed and become a nuisance.

Winner has said he favors a system in which bars or restaurants would lose their occupational licenses if they violate city codes.

No residents spoke against Chubby's request Thursday. Regulski and Mayor Rita Garvey voted against it.

In other business, resident Mike Foley urged commissioners to begin a public dialogue on the city's planned $3.8-million package of flood-control projects for Stevenson's Creek.

Foley said he opposes plans to install concrete channels in the creek because they would be harmful to wildlife.