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Shells loses liquor bid

S Dale Mabry's Shells Restaurant is a victim of its own popularity.

On Thursday, City Council members rejected Shells' application to serve liquor after they heard complaints from nearby homeowners who described the restaurant as a magnet for noise and traffic.

Shells has zoning to serve beer and wine.

Marc Dipiero, who said he lives across the street from Shells, told council members that its customers have driven up his driveway and over his lawn, urinated in front of his house and lined his street with their cars. They are loud and rude and they curse often, he said.

"The complexion of this neighborhood has radically changed because of this restaurant," Dipiero said as eight people in the audience shook their heads in agreement.

Neighbors' pleas to the restaurant have gone unheeded, Dipiero said. When Shells expanded a few years ago, it promised it would put up a brick wall behind the restaurant, he said.

Instead, Shells built a brick-lined stucco wall. Dipiero said the stucco wall is starting to look worn and isn't as good at dampening sound as a solid brick wall would be.

The restaurant also promised it wouldn't try to upgrade its alcohol zoning, he said.

Restaurant owner John Christen told council members that Shells made no such promises.

Council member Scott Paine said he thought the restaurant had promised the council to put up a brick wall, but he said the site plan specified a stucco brick wall.

Christen said Dipiero's other statements were not true either.

He said Shells' clientele is well behaved: "People don't come to Shells and get drunk."

Time and again Shells has responded to neighbors' concerns, Christen said. When neighbors complained about customers parking in the neighborhood, Shells expanded its parking lot at a cost of $500,000, he said.

"We have the most expensive parking lot in Tampa," Christen said.

Neighbors are singling out Shells customers unfairly, Christen said. There are several restaurants in the area, such as the Press Box Sports Emporium next door, which has a license to sell liquor.

"Why can every restaurant down the street have a liquor license?" Christen said. "We've been in business seven years, and to say we can't have a liquor license is not fair."

Council member Linda Saul-Sena said that if Shells builds a brick wall behind the restaurant and adds parking, she probably will approve its liquor zoning application.

Shells can reapply for the liquor zoning in one year.