HOLMES BEACH – Plans for a new restaurant received unanimous approval from city commissioners despite criticism from a city resident and local business owner.
The new, ultra-modern Bohemian restaurant is slated to take the place of the closed Island Grill at 5910 Marina Drive. A concept by five-time James Beard semifinalist and Anna Maria Island native Chef Jeannie Pierola, the new restaurant will feature both indoor and outdoor dining with the outdoor bar and seating area covered. The restaurant will undergo extensive renovations to feature about 100 seats when it’s complete.
Presenting the site plan to city commissioners for approval during a May 23 meeting, representatives from Halflants and Pichette said the plan with the new restaurant is to provide a fine dining experience for guests while also bringing the indoors outside with the new exterior seating area.
While commissioners were fully in support of the new restaurant plans, not everyone was as happy about the concept.
Speaking on behalf of her restaurant, Isola Bella Italian Eatery, owner Alessandra Salafia said that while she supports the addition of the new restaurant in the long-vacant space, she doesn’t like what it could do to her business. The building that Bohemian is planned to occupy is also shared with Isola Bella and an office space with the majority of parking for the tenants located in front of the planned Bohemian restaurant and accessed by Isola Bella patrons along a shared walkway. Plans for Bohemian show that the walkway will be partially used by a seating host for that restaurant with entrances to the outdoor and indoor seating located on either side of the concrete path. Salafia said she doesn’t like the idea that Isola Bella’s guests would have to essentially walk through another restaurant to get to her eatery. She also said she feels that the outdoor seating area, which is planned to occupy an area that is now grass, and its accompanying 6-foot tall landscaping barriers would block the visibility of her restaurant.
“Our address is on Marina Drive, not 59th Street,” she said.
Holmes Beach resident Margie Motzer questioned the viability of adding a more intense use to the area. She said that while she’s pleased with the prestige Pierola would bring to the Island along with the aesthetic facelift to the aging building, she’s concerned that adding another 100-plus-seat restaurant to the area will create a greater strain on local resources including water, drainage and other infrastructure.
Seating at Bohemian is planned to be a 53% increase over the seating that was allowed at the Island Grill.
Commissioners considered both women’s comments but proceeded to give the new restaurant their stamp of approval with a unanimous vote in favor of the presented design.