Outdoor dining expansion requires clarification

Outdoor dining expansion requires further clarification
The Wicked Cantina wants to make permanent the temporary outdoor dining area currently surrounded by white fencing. - Joe Hendricks | Sun

BRADENTON BEACH – The Wicked Cantina’s efforts to make its temporarily expanded outdoor seating area permanent have been delayed.

After a lengthy discussion on Oct. 19, the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board agreed to continue until Wednesday, Nov. 16 its review of the special use permit sought by Wicked Cantina owner Michael Dolan for the permanently expanded outdoor seating.

In June 2021, the Bradenton Beach City Commission extended indefinitely an ordinance originally adopted in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 and 2021 ordinances allowed restaurants and other establishments to expand their outdoor seating areas and reduce their existing parking areas. The Wicked Cantina, the Bridge Tender Inn and the Drift In are among the establishments that continue to use the temporary seating allowance.

When extending the outdoor seating allowances, the commission agreed that the temporary allowance would eventually end, but no such end date has recently been discussed.

Restaurant and business owners were encouraged then to begin taking
the steps necessary to make their expanded seating areas compliant with city code on a permanent basis.

Planning board discussion

During the Oct. 19 meeting, the planning board led that day by vice- chair John Burns identified some unanswered questions regarding the required and available number of parking spaces, potentially shared parking spaces, setback requirements, an existing access easement and more. The board also identified inconsistencies within the city code that caused them concern.

This left Burns unwilling to make a permitting recommendation to the city commission that did not comply with city code. Board members Dan Morhaus, Bill Morrow and Fred Bartizal agreed to continue the discussion until November. Burns requested the board be provided with additional insight and information from the city attorney, city staff and/ or the applicant when the discussion continues.

Morrow said he’s not aware of the city having any plans to end the ongoing COVID-related seating allowances, so continuing the discussion until November would not adversely impact Wicked Cantina’s business operations.

Planner’s memo

The Oct. 19 meeting packet included a memo from City Planner Luis Serna. The memo noted
that in 2021, Wicked Cantina received commission approval to temporarily convert four parking spaces into additional outdoor seating as part of the city’s ongoing COVID-19 allowances.

“It is anticipated that Ordinance 21-533 will eventually sunset and all such (temporary) open-air dining and outdoor sales will no longer be permitted in the city,” Serna stated in his memo.

Citing city code, Serna’s memo says open-air dining area seats and tables shall comply with the city’s required 25-foot front yard setbacks, with the exception of the uncovered open-air dining areas located on properties that abut Bridge Street. The Wicked Cantina is located at 107 Seventh St. N., about a half-mile north of Bridge Street.

Serna’s memo said a literal interpretation of the city code would require Wicked Cantina’s open-air seats and tables to meet the minimum 25-foot front yard setback requirement but notes the temporary seating area approved in 2021 was approved without a 25-foot setback.

“Therefore, an alternate interpretation could be that the setback requirement for open-air seating is intended to only apply to open-air dining areas that are under a roof or awning or are fixed in place; and not to non-fixed chairs and tables that are covered with umbrellas, all of which can be easily moved,” Serna’s memo says.