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Kurt Schultheis
Property owners are seeking to turn the site of the former Longboat Key Animal Clinic at 5530 Gulf of Mexico Drive into a 74-seat restaurant.
Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 30, 2014 3 years ago

Vet office site sought for a new Key eatery

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

A new restaurant could be coming to Longboat Key.

The Planning, Zoning and Building Department received an application for site plan review June 24 that reveals property owners want to turn the site of the former Longboat Key Animal Clinic at 5530 Gulf of Mexico Drive into a 74-seat restaurant.

Property owners Dr. David Smith and Jo Ellen Baxter-Smith, owners of the property since the early 1980s, closed the clinic in 1996. They have reached an agreement with Paul and Cara Russo to purchase the property and convert the two concrete-block yellow buildings on site into an eatery. The purchase is contingent on the town approving future plans to convert the commercially zoned property into a restaurant.

Paul Russo is the owner of Impact Homes Inc. The Russos reside in Charlotte County, where “they build homes and renovate under-performing properties,” according to the application.

The Russos have created three successful restaurant ventures in Punta Gorda, the application states, including The Bay City Grill, Spazzi and Gators.

“The Russos intend to renovate the existing structures and redo the site work and open a small, quality restaurant that accepts reservations featuring indoor and patio dining,” the site plan review application states. “They are very excited about the opportunity to establish this business and return this property to being an active contributor to the Longboat Key community.”

The restaurant would be housed in the 1,600-square-foot building that formerly housed the animal clinic, and a 960-square-foot building on the site would be used for storage.

Nineteen parking spaces would be used on the west end of the property near Gulf of Mexico Drive.

If approved, the restaurant will sit just south of Euphemia Haye on the other side of Gulf Bay Road.
Sarasota Coldwell Banker representative Elliot Rose, who is acting as the agent for the Smiths and Russos through a corporation called Rhoady LLC, said his clients have declined to comment about the restaurant.

“We need to have the discussion with the Development Review Committee to see if the restaurant is feasible before my clients are comfortable talking about it,” Rose said.

A newly formed Longboat Key Development Review Committee made up of PZ&B staff members will discuss the application with the applicants 9 a.m. Thursday at Town Hall in the commission antechambers.

Senior Planner Steve Schield said he hasn’t had an opportunity to review the plans and wants to discuss the project with the applicant later this week before making any sort of recommendation that could be passed along to the Planning and Zoning Board if a future application is allowed and deemed complete.

Thursday’s meeting is open to the public, but there will be no public participation allowed in the discussions.

Previously labeled as pre-application meetings, Schield said the review committee was formed to further inform the public about possible applications coming before the town. Development Review Committees exist in neighboring communities, including the city of Sarasota.

If approved, it will be the third new restaurant this year that’s either slated for Longboat Key or that’s already opened.

Longbeach Café opened April 2 in Whitney Beach Plaza, and W. Howard Rooks has plans to open a new restaurant in the building that formerly housed Mattison’s Steakhouse at the Plaza in October. Rooks, a local real estate investor, owns the building at 555 Bay Isles Parkway and already received outdoor dining approval for the restaurant earlier this year from the planning board.



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