Coquina Beach Market opening delayed

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BRADENTON BEACH – The Coquina Beach Market has hit a hurricane-sized snag and its projected Nov. 1 opening will be delayed, according to Manatee County officials.

“As crews have been deployed around the county to clean up and repair other parks properties, the site prep and rehab work to get the new site (further south on Coquina Beach) ready have been put on hold temporarily,” according to a Manatee County press release. “The official opening date has been delayed from the originally planned Nov. 1.”

Elliott Falcione, executive director of Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, had previously said the county-run market would begin on Nov. 1 and run through July 27, 2023 and would be open on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on Thursdays from 3 to 8 p.m. He said there will be about 100 vendors, with a different set of vendors each of the two days.

The discussion about the market began when on Aug. 2, the county announced in a press release that it would take over the beach market from Nancy Ambrose, its director for the past decade. The release stated in part: “Artisans and other vendors will be back along the Coquina Beach South promenade, once again, when the 2022-23 seasons opens in November as oversight for the market shifts to Manatee County.”

Ambrose has been moving forward on her plans for a new market in a yet- unannounced venue according to comments on her “Where’s the Market?” Facebook page: “Update on markets – it looks like we will have a Wednesday market – every Wed. from Dec. – May. I will be able to send apps on Nov. 15. I am still working on other things – hopefully, some November dates included.”

Since the county-run market has not been formally approved by county commissioners, it was once again a topic for debate at a recent commission land use meeting.

“I still don’t have any information whatsoever,” said Commissioner George Kruse at the Oct. 6 meeting. “We’re getting half information and saying please vote on this based on half information and trust… (We’re being told) the estimated annual revenue is $225,000. That’s not showing net income or expenses.”

The wheels to change hands for the market began in June when County Administrator Dr. Scott Hopes said that he had been invited to take a tour of the beach area by the director of public safety.

“There was an access barrier to Coquina Beach because of the layout of the beach market,” he said. “Number two, according to the mayor of Braden- ton Beach, the parking for the vendors was interfering with the parking for the beachgoers. Number three, the concessions had expanded the area beyond their contract and they wanted me to see the conditions of the beach firsthand.”

Hopes said the beach market was clearly interfering with access to the public beach.

He said after pulling financials, “Then I discussed with staff what we were investing into the beach market, with maintenance and staff and security. Then I realized this individual (Ambrose) was pulling in $270,000 to $325,000 a year net on public property and was not engaging with staff to ensure that the operations of the market did not interfere with our tourism.”

Hopes told the commission that with their approval, there could be a beach market in November as there has been for the past 10 years.

Now on the sidelines, Ambrose commented on the meeting via the Facebook page:

“Man, I wish the market made that much – the numbers are all wrong. I never even paid myself until the last two years. Even though the numbers are not truthful – that doesn’t even matter as I feel the market will probably gross $150,000 a year max for the county this year. Net may not be much less as Elliott (Falcione) said that there would be about $20k in expenses since they would be using staff,” she wrote.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who is on record as being opposed to the county taking over the market, was the lone “no” vote on a motion by Commissioner James Satcher to table the discussion and vote on the county running the market until a later date, well into November.

Whitmore, who lost her primary seat to Jason Beardon, will not be on the board for the vote.