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Sarasota Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020 2 months ago

Another public hearing for Raffurty’s liquor license

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The City Commission agreed to give residents another chance to share their thoughts on a permit request from the Main Street bar.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Although city staff and the Planning Board have recommended approving an application from Raffurty’s Bar and Grill to use a new liquor license, the City Commission wants to hold a second public hearing before making a final decision on the proposal.

On Dec. 7, residents from the nearby Rivo on Ringling condominium and a representative for a proposed Main Street residential development asked the commission not to approve the Raffurty’s application, which was on the board’s consent agenda.

Raffurty’s is seeking to use a 4-COP license, which allows liquor sales without any minimum requirement for food sales. The bar and restaurant, located at 1888 Main St., has operated using an SRX license, which requires businesses to derive at least 51% of their income from food sales — a mark Raffurty’s has struggled to hit, according to city staff.

Rivo residents Dan Lobeck and Maurice Cueva-Eguiguren expressed concern about the noise that has been generated at the business, located just more than 500 feet from their homes.

Land use attorney Stephen Rees spoke on behalf of BPOZ 1991 Main, the developer behind a proposed residential complex at the former Main Plaza property across the street from Raffurty’s. He expressed hope a public hearing could offer an opportunity to ensure the liquor license application accounted for the needs of the proposed development.

In October, the Planning Board voted 3-2 to recommend approval. Rob Robinson, an attorney representing Raffurty’s, said his client didn’t oppose another hearing, but he thought the input from all parties would be unchanged.

Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch said she believed the application warranted another public hearing in part because BPOZ 1991 Main was not involved in the Planning Board discussion. But Rees did appear on behalf of the developer, and city Senior Planner Chris Brown said the interests of a not-yet-approved project did not play a role in staff analysis.

“It’s really premature to consider how this conditional use is going to impact a project which may or may not be constructed,” Brown said.

A majority of the commission felt the appeals from neighbors justified a public hearing, with Mayor Hagen Brody casting the only dissenting vote.

“I do feel like the residents feel like they weren’t heard,” Commissioner Liz Alpert said.

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