Longbeach Village residents got their wish.
Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant & Pub owner Ed Chiles announced during the Longboat Key Town Commission’s regular meeting Monday, June 3, he will not pursue a plan to use the historic Rufus P. Jordan House for receptions and meeting space.
And, because he heard residents’ complaints about noise and parking, he plans to discontinue major events for the restaurant, including fireworks for the Fourth of July and the fish fry fundraiser for the Longboat Key Historical Society.
“We had a lot of folks complaining about noise and parking from big events,” Chiles told the Longboat Observer. “We only had two big events. You try to be responsive to the surrounding Village community.”
Chiles said he doesn’t recall receiving complaints about the two events in past years. The complaints he’s referring to stem from his application to add a meeting room and deck to the historic Rufus P. Jordan House and build a second-story tree house over his restaurant that adds an additional 11 seats. Village residents emailed the Longboat Key Town Commission en masse earlier this month after the commission approved the plan on first reading.
Residents circulated a petition asking neighbors to sign if they “object to this growth in traffic, noise and parking” and started a “Save the Longbeach Village” Facebook page.
Chiles told the commission Monday night he pulled his site plan “because of all the misinformation.”
Village residents had attended commission meetings and emailed commissioners last month after the commission approved the site plan on first reading.
Villagers were concerned primarily about a potential increase of 151 seats — the total maximum fire marshal occupancy proposed for the meeting area above the Jordan House — although Chiles had said he wouldn’t put more than 60 people in the space. He had hoped to use the space to serve cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, but not dinner, and said he thought it could also be a place for groups such as the Historical Society and Longbeach Village Association to meet.
Chiles submitted a new plan Friday, May 31 that calls for building the tree house with its 11 additional seats; the Planning and Zoning Board will review the plan at its June 18 meeting. The Town Commission won’t review the scaled-down project until the fall.
“We are ready to start a dialogue with residents about it,” Chiles said. “We are ready to work with you on any parking issues.”
Village resident Samir Ragheb spoke after Chiles and reiterated why neighbors were concerned.
“We are a society of laws,” he said. “If somebody puts in an application saying he wants 151 capacity sitting or standing, we take him at his word.”
Chiles met with a group of Village residents last month at Mar Vista to address their concerns. At that time, he suggested canceling the Fourth of July and Fish Fry events, according to Longbeach Village Association President Michael Drake.
Drake said the issue wasn’t the two annual events but, rather, the potential increase of 151 seats.
“To go from two events each year to 365 is not something we’re going to tolerate in our neighborhood,” Drake said.
Shirley Beachum, president of the Longboat Key Historical Society, learned in an email last week that Mar Vista wouldn’t host the fish fry later this fall.
Beachum said it’s unlikely the group will hold a fish fry at another location.
“That’s what everybody is asking, but, as far as I’m concerned, Mar Vista has already done it, and I’m not interested in having it somewhere else,” she said. “It’s a shame, because that’s the only money we have coming in to keep our little historical society going.”
Chiles said he still hopes to restore the Jordan House someday.
In the short term, though, his Fourth of July plans don’t involve Longboat Key.
The Chiles Restaurant Group sent out a press release last week announcing its Fourth of July plans.
Last year’s release stated: “The Chiles Restaurant Group consisting of the Sandbar, BeachHouse and Mar Vista restaurants, will host three consecutive fireworks shows July 2, 3 and 4.”
Mar Vista’s show, held July 2, was the kickoff of the three-day event.
But the announcement sent this week doesn’t mention Mar Vista.
It states: “The Sandbar and BeachHouse Restaurants will host two consecutive fireworks shows July 3 and 4.”
The big events
Fourth of July ‘Boom Boom on the Bay’ — Mar Vista began holding the annual fireworks extravaganza in 2009. Last year’s celebration took place July 2, the first of three consecutive Fourth of July celebrations held at Chiles’ restaurants.
Fish Fry — Fish fries were a Longboat Key tradition for the island’s pioneers that the Longboat Key Historical Society revived in 2005. Mar Vista has hosted the group’s annual fundraiser every year.