Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Businesses question city of Sarasota's 'nightclub designation' mandate

  • By
  • | 5:00 a.m. November 17, 2011
  • Sarasota
  • News
  • Share

The Sarasota City Planning Board approved two requests for nightclub operations within city limits at its Nov. 9 regular meeting. The only problem? The operators of the businesses don’t want to be called “nightclubs.”

Longtime St. Armands Circle eatery Lynches Pub & Grub and a new downtown eatery, the State Street Cookery, had to ask for nightclub designations because they want to sell liquor to patrons.

City codes mandate that organizations that serve liquor and provide entertainment must be classified as a nightclub.

The designation frustrated both applicants Wednesday.

“We’ve been in business since 1986 and on the Circle since 2003 as an Irish pub,” said Lynches Pub & Grub owner Christine Lynch. “I get weird looks from customers who ask for a Scotch with their meal and are surprised an Irish pub doesn’t offer that choice.”

But Lynch and land-use consultant Joel Freedman took offense to the city’s designation of the pub as a nightclub.

“It is a dilemma because of the way the code is written,” Freedman said. “(Lynch) needs a license to sell liquor with other menu items but has no interest in running a nightclub.”

Freedman said the nightclub designation was antiquated.

“This needs to be changed, and we have to ask for a nightclub variance in order to do that,” Freedman said.

Christian Herman, owner of State Street Cookery, who intends to open across the street from the home of the future State Street parking garage, agrees.

“Our main objective is just to be a restaurant that serves alcohol,” Herman said.

The planning board unanimously approved both requests without making any recommendations to change the nightclub classification at this time.

City senior planner Courtney Mendez, however, sympathized with Lynch and Herman.

“The zoning code does not adequately describe what’s being proposed,” Mendez said. “(Lynches Pub) operates as a restaurant all the time and just wants a couple of bottles behind the counter.”

Goodwill approved
The Sarasota City Planning Board approved a Goodwill Superstore, 5150 N. Tamiami Trail, at its Nov. 9 regular meeting.

The planning board approved the 29,699-square-foot retail store by a 3-2 vote, despite concerns from some nearby residents who think the store doesn’t fit the character of the neighborhood they want revitalized.

But not everyone was against the project.

Gretchen Seerie, a 35-year resident of the neighborhood, praised the application and encouraged the developer to keep more of the existing neighborhood and have the building complement the structures already there.

The store will sit approximately 12 blocks away from the site of a new Walmart grocery store that has already received a building permit.

North Trail resident Robert Casella said he and other residents plan to appeal the decision with the Sarasota City Commission and are forming a group called Citizens for Reasonable North Trail Development.