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  1. Pinellas

'We will fight this.' Legal action stops work on new Caddy's restaurant in St. Pete Beach

This aerial view shows a St. Pete Beach inlet leading to the former Silas Dent's restaurant (painted yellow). At left is a finger of land with homes along 55th Avenue, where one resident has taken legal action to halt a project that would turn the old Silas Dent's into a Caddy's restaurant and bar. [Courtesy of Edward Stapor]
Published Mar. 19

ST. PETE BEACH — Renovation work on the new Caddy's restaurant on the Intracoastal Waterway has been halted pending the outcome of two legal actions filed by a nearby resident who is challenging the building permit issued by the city.

Donald J. Schutz, a long-time resident and lawyer, filed an administrative appeal and a lawsuit in Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court earlier this month in an effort to invalidate the permit issued to Caddy's St. Pete Beach by the city's building department.

A number of nearby condominium residents had unsuccessfully protested the permit when it was pending several months ago, despite efforts by the restaurant owners to ease their concerns about noise coming from an open-air section at the rear of the restaurant.

"We will fight this," said Marcus Winters, one of the Caddy's owners. "As far as we are concerned, there is no reason Caddy's can't be open at the back."

The new restaurant, on the site of the closed Silas Dent's Steakhouse at 5501 Gulf Blvd., would be the sixth Caddy's location in the Tampa Bay area. The original Caddy's is in Treasure Island, with the others in Gulfport, Indian Shores, downtown St. Petersburg and Bradenton.

Winters said a seventh restaurant is planned on the Gulf of Mexico in Madeira Beach.

Schutz, who owns a single-family home and dock with a number of boats on the inlet leading to the restaurant, echoed and expanded on other residents' complaints in his lawsuit.

"The permit is in clear violation … (and) the city has knowingly and culpably enacted municipal policy … that damages the property rights of all property owners in the vicinity," he wrote in a letter to the city's attorney before filing the lawsuit.

City officials have maintained that the permit is lawful and adheres to all zoning and building regulations. However, as a result of Schutz's legal actions, they recently issued a stop-work order on the Caddy's renovations.

"We had started work and had to pull all our men and materials off the job" said Bill Karns, whose Treasure Island-based firm is the contractor for the restaurant renovation. "The Caddy's folks were extremely disappointed."

Schutz objects to the noise he says will emanate from the rear of the restaurant and negative impacts on his home from visiting boat traffic.

He says the inlet — framed by the restaurant, condominiums and homes — is essentially an "amphitheater" that would amplify sound from music and patrons at Caddy's.

The adjacent homes would experience "late night sound within a few feet," he wrote, adding: "Would anyone with a multimillion-dollar home want to be out in their back yard swimming or barbecuing with dozens of restaurant patrons watching them?"

No date for the administrative appeal hearing has been set and the city has yet to file a response to Schutz's lawsuit, which claims the permit violated state law and the city's own comprehensive plan and land use regulations.

It says the dock was never legally permitted for commercial use, even though it had previously been used by patrons of the former Silas Dent's restaurant.

Schutz also claims that a lack of buffering between the rear wall and nearby residential buildings legally bars any opening in that wall during business hours.

Caddy's permit allows one opening in a section of wall to allow patrons to view the waterway and enjoy its natural breezes.

During inclement weather and non-business hours, the opening would be closed with a roll-down door.

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