The Outpost Tap House + Tavern one step closer to serving booze despite protests from some at UT listen02/20/14 Janelle Irwin
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As city council members continue searching for a balance between neighborhoods and late night businesses, a restaurant near the University of Tampa wants to add liquor to their list of adult beverages. During a Tampa City Council meeting Thursday, the board unanimously approved the first of two votes on a wet zoning license for the Outpost Tap House + Tavern despite pleas from groups who worry it will promote raucous college partying.
“They offer on Fridays, half priced bottles of wine for ladies. So, it’s a whole bottle of wine for half price. It’s not a glass of wine for half price … as well as the dollar draft beers. And for Gasparilla there was an all-you-can-drink special that wasn’t just a Bloody Mary.”
That’s Ellen Snelling with the Tampa Alcohol Coalition. She said the University of Tampa’s concerns about opening a local beer spot to serving liquor should be heard. The argument speaks to a broader issue in neighborhoods nestled next to popular night life hubs. Two residents of the SoHo District complained during public comment about music blaring from bars around South Howard Avenue. Adam Smith said even though the music likely breaks local noise ordinances, police officers rarely do anything about it.
“With no consistent hope from the bars to reign in the loud noise and follow the law, local residents have launched a petition drive to solicit signatures … one, to hold these businesses accountable when they violate the law and two, insist the police officers who work in our district enforce the law and ordinances. In the last three days, we have collected 76 signatures.”
High end condos and apartments surround bars like MacDinton’s and World of Beer. A report on how to strengthen the city’s current noise ordinances will be heard at a meeting on March 20th. A spokesperson for the North Hyde Park neighborhood association expressed similar concerns about The Outpost Tap House + Tavern near UT. He also worries about alcohol-related crashes and fatalities. But those concerns can’t be considered by city council members when voting a land use permit up or down. That’s what’s happening with the Outpost. Rebecca Kurt is an attorney for the city.
“That means two things – as wonderful or as not wonderful … may be is not relevant to an approval or denial on this case because it runs with the land, it’s not an entitlement to the applicant. So the issue is whether or not the use is appropriate with this location. And on the same note, you must assume that this is going to operate legally and within your code provisions. It’s not appropriate to base a denial on the fact you believe it will operate illegally and outside the law.”
But the University of Tampa attorney, Gina Grimes, claims there are statutory reasons not to approve the wet zoning application. Most notably she cited the Outpost’s parking situation. Owners lowered their maximum occupancy from more than 100 to 92. Grimes said that was done to cut back on parking requirements.
“Another issue is the fire marshal who I spoke to yesterday when he came up with the 60 and the 32 said he simply went in and counted the spaces. Well, that’s not the same formula that applies to everybody else in the rest of the city of Tampa. Everybody else has to follow this formula that includes not just the number of seats, but also square footage of areas like the back bar, the kitchen, the food prep, the storage and the waiting. He didn’t count any of that. He just counted seats and he came up with that occupancy load. We have no floor plan, no way to verify seats.”
And claims that the Outpost Tap House + Tavern is causing problems were squashed by Frank Miranda, the attorney representing the owners.
“I will also inform you, there was two people arrested at that facility, but it wasn’t for underage drinking, it was trying to drink underage. They got arrested for using a fake ID. Zero police complaints, zero issues with the fire marshal, zero issues with your own department.”
The Outpost is a restaurant that has so far thrived on its pre-dark lunch and dinner business, but according to a Tampa Bay Times review, isn’t as busy as it should be late at night. Owners claim they aren’t able to compete in the bar business without selling liquor drinks, including shots. Several people spoke in support of the business’ application with the city pointing out that owners contribute thousands of dollars to local charities. And Miranda, the attorney, added the University of Tampa has been one of those benefactors.
“The University of Tampa, every year accepts a check from The Outpost to put a billboard on their baseball field for $2500. Everyone accepts that check.”
About a dozen UT staff and supporters crowded the first two rows of city council chambers. They were scolded by former Hillsborough County School Board candidate Joe Robinson for trying to hold a local business back.
“Let them educate your students. If they’re that dumb for going out and getting arrested for underage drinking, they don’t need to be at the university paying $30,000-40,000.”
City Council members will vote again on the matter on March 6. Council chair Charlie Miranda abstained from the vote because he’s related to the Outpost attorney.