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Longboat Key Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019 8 months ago

North-end eatery gains Longboat's permission for outdoor seating

Whitney's adds parking provision on adjacent parcel to accommodate increase in capacity.
by: Eric Garwood Managing Editor

With an agreement for adjacent parking and approval from the Planning and Zoning Board in hand, James Brearley and his business partners were granted permission Tuesday morning to proceed with adding a net 22 seats to Whitney’s, a fast-casual restaurant under construction on the north end of the island.

The five board members in attendance (Chair BJ Bishop and Member Penny Gold were absent) voted 4-1 to approve. Phill Younger voted to deny the proposal that adds 28 outdoor seats while deleting six indoors for a total of 70. The town’s Planning and Zoning staff had recommended approval. The proposal requires no further town action.

Central to the application, filed with the town Sept. 11, and the focus of the majority of the board’s Tuesday deliberations, was a lease between Brearley’s Whitney LBK LLC and The Marterie Family Trust, owners of the former bank building directly south of the restaurant at Broadway Street and Gulf of Mexico Drive. The $900 per month agreement between the trust and the LLC entitles Whitney’s to use 18 parking spaces, which brings the restaurant’s total to 30 spaces.

An architectural rending of the property.

If the lease agreement ends — there is a 15-day cancellation clause — or if the number of available off-site spaces is reduced, Whitney’s must reduce the number of seats accordingly to meet the town’s four seats per parking space requirement.

Younger, who sought motions to vote down the proposal and to delay a vote until the full board could meet, questioned the appropriateness of such an arrangement and the logistics of reducing seating capacity.

“This is definitely a parking issue,” he said. “Everybody on this island provides on-site parking. I really like your plan, but I can’t support the inadequate parking on-site.”

The original plan, approved in 2018, to build Whitney’s on the site of a long vacant gas station called for 42 indoor seats with 12 parking spots on-site — within the town’s 4 for 1 rules.

The addition of the former bank building’s parking, which runs along Gulf of Mexico Drive and immediately between the two buildings, ends up providing more space than the restaurant requires by code. Brearley told board members he understands he’s limited to 70 seats regardless.

“We love the idea of coming in overparked,” he said. “I’d rather rent them all and not be part of a parking controversy.”

Longbeach Village resident Becky Parrish spoke to the board about recent parking and traffic issues in her neighborhood adjacent to Whitney’s. Town leaders in the spring enacted a series of changes to on-street parking in the Village, which added areas of no parking and limited overnight parking, employee parking and more. Town leaders said they would watch the effects of these changes throughout the season.

“I feel the Village isn’t getting a lot of support,” she said.

Senior Planner Maika Arnold said property owners within 500 feet of the Whitney property were advised by mail of the outdoor-seating request, and no objections or comments were filed.

Brearley said that his restaurant would offer counter service for patrons ordering and paying but table service beyond that point. Patrons would choose a table indoors or out and be served by staff with plates and silverware. 

“The idea is that in nice weather, the existing garage doors we’re replacing with garage doors that are glass that will roll up, so the idea is that when the weather is nice, you can have sort of a joie de vivre, indoor-outdoor dining experience is the goal of the outdoor seating,” he said.

Brearley said the goal for completion of the project is the end of the year. “And if our contractor is listening to this, we’re pushing hard for Thanksgiving.”

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