HOLMES BEACH – The doctor is in at The Doctor’s Office, a local cocktail bar, and he may soon be serving up an expanded menu in a larger space.
Commissioners voted 4-1, with Commissioner Kim Rash dissenting, to approve the first public hearing of a proposed site plan amendment to turn the local bar into a restaurant.
Owner Sean Murphy, formerly of the Beach Bistro, presented a plan to Holmes Beach commissioners during an Oct. 11 work session asking for consideration to add a full-service restaurant to The Doctor’s Office operation in the adjacent event space known as The Doctor’s Garden. If approved by commissioners at a final public hearing, the new restaurant will have 66 seats, 50 inside and 16 outside, serving dinner nightly after 5 p.m. with lunch service available on Saturdays and Sundays.
Police Chief Bill Tokajer said during the Oct. 25 initial public hearing on the proposed site plan amendment that he’s spoken with representatives at West Manatee Fire Rescue who have given their approval of the requested number of seats for indoor and outdoor dining at the proposed restaurant space.
Rash was absent from the work session discussion but was present for the first public hearing on the site plan amendment.
Margie Motzer, a resident who lives near the bar, said she’s concerned about the impact on the neighborhood if the bar is allowed to expand into a restaurant. She said the increased indoor and outdoor seating added to the other nearby restaurants, bars and vacation rental properties could increase the noise and traffic through adjacent residential neighborhoods. Citing a section of the city’s comprehensive plan, she noted that city leaders are tasked with preventing the encroachment of commercial businesses in residential neighborhoods and she fears the restaurant could negatively impact nearby property values.
Resident Barbara Hines, a former member of the city’s planning commission, also spoke against allowing the bar to transition to a restaurant, noting the possibility of increases in traffic and noise.
Nancy Deal said she was concerned about parking for the restaurant, noting that she’s observed patrons and employees of the bar parking in inappropriate areas, such as across the street at a nearby laundromat.
Commissioner Jayne Christenson also expressed concern about parking because of the Doctor’s Office need for off-site parking contracts due to there not being enough dedicated parking onsite. She said that city leaders allowed off-site parking with the Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club at the adjacent former
Wells Fargo site and, when the bank closed, the resort lost the ability to use that parking area. Murphy said that the off-site parking contracts have a 90- day cancellation notice clause that would give him time to find additional parking for patrons.
Commissioner Terry Schaefer said that he could see parking being a problem at the site.
Rash said he hasn’t had one resident call and tell him that they favored approval of the site plan amendment but that he’s had several calls from people who don’t want the bar to turn into a restaurant. He added that he feels it would create too much of an impact on an already congested area.
Murphy said his intent with the restaurant is to keep it as a small, intimate venue for patrons to enjoy a meal.
Commissioner Carol Soustek said that the site plan amendment application met every requirement laid out in the comprehensive plan. “I see nothing wrong with approving this site plan,” she said, noting that Murphy had met every requirement set out by the city.
The site plan will be scheduled for a final public hearing by commissioners.