Liquor may be quicker way of solving Marco’s shifting parking regulations

Article Highlights

  • More seats are needed to get a state liquor license, regardless of parking
  • Other council issues Monday include increasing utility rates, supporting the need for a CRA for Town Center, defining a failing seawall and allowing a new one to be installed in front of a failed wall
  • “We don’t want to see all parking restrictions removed. Reasonable limits are good and we want to be conscious of our neighbors and their needs.” Susan Ackerson of the Old Marco Pub and Restaurant

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— Liquor may be the answer to a long debate about restaurants’ parking space requirements based on the businesses’ number of seats and total square footage.

The Marco Island Restaurant Association met on Tuesday and unanimously agreed that all restaurants, whether freestanding buildings, in small shopping centers or large malls, should be calculated similar to the way eateries in large shopping centers are currently calculated in city codes.

“We need to level the playing field and make the parking requirement fairer for all of the Island restaurants,” said Susan Ackerson, a Realtor and co-owner of the Old Marco Pub & Restaurant.

Large centers are required to have one parking space per 250 square feet of floor space. The

Association is asking for a restriction of one space per 200 square feet of floor space for restaurants in small plazas or individual buildings.

This recommendation was made to City Council and the Planning Board by Joe Oliverio, president of the association, several months ago as well. City Council will review a draft ordinance regulating restaurant parking at a meeting scheduled 5:30 p.m. on Monday that will allow the change Oliverio and others recommend.

Association members appreciated the attempt by the city to help businesses by temporarily allowing unlimited outdoor seating in season, but it is really not going to solve their problems, they say.

“We need permanent solutions to our problem,” Ackerson said.

Since the city removed all restrictions for restaurant owners who apply for a free permit in the pilot program, only one restaurant, Capt. Brien’s, has applied.

Peter Marek of Marek’s Collier House Restaurant as well as Susan and Tom Ackerson of The Old Marco Pub & Restaurant say that’s because the real issue is the ability to obtain a license to sell cocktails instead of just wine and beer.

Marco currently requires one parking space for each four seats with minor additions of seats allowed for having a bike rack. This city requirement is restricting the restaurants’ ability to get a liquor license, because the state requires at least 150 in-door or covered seats to get a liquor license.

Parking is of no concern to the state and temporary seating, as currently allowed by the city’s new pilot program, will not help the restaurant owners in their pursuit of the state license.

“We lose a lot of business at our restaurant in Old Marco because we are not able to provide customers with what they want to drink, that being cocktails” said Susan Ackerson.

“There are 850 condominium units within walking distance of our place and the other Old Marco area restaurants. Restricting what type of beverage our patrons can drink based on parking just does not make sense. We have room to add the state required seats but we are short a couple of parking spaces under the current requirements. Many of our customers walk to our place.”

Oliverio has often argued that additional seats could alleviate any parking shortages in-season by allowing the customers to be seated and served faster, increasing the customer turnover rate.

“We don’t want to see all parking restrictions removed. Reasonable limits are good and we want to be conscious of our neighbors and their needs,” Ackerson has agreed in a prepared statement issued Wednesday.

“It would be fabulous to have the parking requirements made more favorable for restaurants. It is great that the city is trying to help small businesses in these difficult financial times.”

Other issues to be considered by council on Monday include:

- Officially adopting the annual utility rate increases as discussed in earlier meetings, including a 10.5 percent overall water and waste water rate utility increase in October 2010; a 6 percent increase in Oct. 2011; a 6 percent increase in Oct. 2012 and a 1.5 percent increase in Oct. 2013. These compounding increases will be reviewed and voted on by council again each fiscal year, but are needed to obtain a favorable bond rating and loan from a bond issuer, City Manager Steve Thompson said.

- Approval of the finding of necessity report by Kimley Horn and Associates that the Community Redevelopment Administration is needed for the Town Center area. The public will have more opportunity to learn about the redevelopment of the approximate 250-acre area, called Town Center, which surrounds the smaller shopping center by the same name, at an In the Round at IberiaBank at 6 p.m. on Thursday evening.

The panel will include City Councilman Bill Trotter presenting the vision for Town Center; how redevelopment and a CRA work by Thompson and Collier County’s experience with two recent CRAs presented by Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala.

- Approval of changes to the seawall ordinance to both better define when a seawall has failed as well as allow a new seawall to be put in front of the existing failed seawall.

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