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Food stand floats through town restrictions

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  • | 4:00 a.m. August 15, 2012
  • Longboat Key
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The latest waterfront dining option isn’t Zagat-rated.

It’s probably casual — the kind of place that doesn’t require shoes and a shirt.

Directions: Wade out toward the Jewfish Key sandbar, and if you hit dry land, you’ve gone too far.

The latest waterfront dining option is a pontoon boat-turned floating food stand that, according to an Aug. 11 Longboat Key police report, was anchoring on the Jewfish Key sandbar.

It’s been selling food and drinks, while accepting “donations” for beer — and for the most part, it’s legal.

According the Longboat Key police report, officers Dennis Silverio and John Thomas traveled to the floating food stand by way of the department’s boat at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 11, and got permission to board it.

The 42-foot vessel was equipped with a kitchen area, refrigerators, coolers, a generator and deep-fat fryers. The boat’s owners, Sean and Jodi Jones, of Parrish, showed police a large ice cooler full of beer and approximately two cases of Bud Light when police asked if alcohol was on board.

Jodi Jones agreed to get rid of the beer after police told her that the donation system was akin to selling it.

Police said they would forgo filing charges but would document that the couple was asked to move their business from Longboat Key waters.

Jodi Jones disagreed with police about where she could do business. The Joneses agreed to leave for the day but said that they planned to seek a final say on whether they could operate their business from the location.

The answer walks a fine line — make that the high-tide line, by which the town measures its nautical boundaries.

According to Longboat Key Acting Police Chief Pete Cumming, if the boat is moored off the island or attached to sand in any way, it is considered to be in town boundaries and can’t conduct business. Otherwise, it’s in Sarasota Bay, subject to the jurisdiction of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Cumming said that there is some gray area, including the donation system for beer.

“Alcohol sales aren’t permitted, but (Jones) told me that she never charged for alcohol and would give them a beer but just wanted them to tip,” he said.

But he said that Jodi Jones has the proper licenses needed to operate the floating food stand.

“It’s sort of a work in progress, but she went above and beyond what she needed to do,” Cumming said. “It appears as though it’s not a Longboat Key matter.”

The Longboat Observer was unable to reach the Joneses through the phone number listed on the police report.


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