Tampa officials have discovered something that landlords (at least in this city) have known for years: For a high-end restaurant space to succeed, it has to serve beer and wine. For years, the Iorio administration has increased the costs of these R(restaurant) wet zonings restricting locations, adding fees, documentation requirements and cost to landlords.
But when the city is landlord to a restaurant, things look a little different.
The location is Ballast Point Park tucked below Gandy Boulevard at the end of the Bayshore. The restaurant is the Taste of Boston. The city owns the park and pier where the restaurant is located, so it is the landlord in this case. And because the city likes to have its commercial spaces rented out, as most landlords do, it filed for a rezoning and a wet zoning that would allow Taste of Boston to serve a taste or two of beer and wine.
What makes this so funny is not the fact that the city was asking for a rezoning, nor the fact that while the city claims it is so short on tax revenue that it has to cut services but that the city paid the rezoning application fees out of its own pockets actually, that is, out of our pockets.
So the Parks and Recreation Department went before City Council recently and explained how selling beer and wine in the middle of a park right next to a brand-new $200,000 playground renovation for kids was a good idea, and that the administration supported the sales of alcohol because their sale had no negative impact on children. Council members were so outraged they asked if the upper levels of the administration (i.e. the mayor) knew the parks and recreation position. The answer? A resounding yes. Council members voted the application down.
So Tampa, known for hosting the most strip clubs per capita in the nation, where we promote cigar smoking because it is our history, now has a new credit: shill for the liquor industry. And what is worse, it was done with taxpayer money.
The city, which is often so quick to tell landlords how to run their businesses, once again does not like it when the rules are applied to itself. Even worse, while complaining about revenue shortfalls and offering no more tax relief then what is state mandated, city officials have the money to pay lawyers for rezoning applications. I hope the city now realizes the detriment it has caused to property owners and small restaurants and will re-examine its policies.