■ BY MARCY SHORTUSE
If you’re one of those people who like to head down to South Beach Bar & Grille, grab a cocktail and watch the sunset from the back of the restaurant, you’d better bring your own chair from now on. Code Enforcement came to the south end of Boca Grande in a fury this past week, and the landscape at the popular restaurant has changed dramatically.
According to South Beach co-owner Bart DeStefano, they were told to remove the pavers that had been in back of the restaurant on the beach, as well as the tables and umbrellas where people sat for years. The half-wall that was put in place to keep the sand out of the area was taken down as well.
Not even the tiki torches were exempt from Code Enforcement scrutiny.
DeStefano said all they are trying to do is comply with the law at this point.
“They called the pavers an ‘impervious surface,’” he said. “I thought if they were set in the sand it was all right. But rather than keep this thing going forever, I just wanted to get it over with and we took them out.”
Apparently, DeStefano said, someone had done a whole lot of complaining about the fact they had “done a lot of work with no permits.” In fact, he said they had redone the old pavers that were there for many, many years because they were considered to be dangerous.
“They were falling apart,” he said. “So we put new ones in, and knew erosion wouldn’t be a problem because that wall was there. It was all a matter of safety, and we have had insurance people come out to tell us what we needed to do to make it right, to make it safe. I didn’t know we needed permits to put down pavers in the sand. We never used that area to serve food, or even allowed people to eat take-out there. People have gotten mad in the past because we wouldn’t serve them food at those tables. There were always pavers out there.
“The wall was where people could sit and watch the sunset, and to keep the sand off the deck. All of that is gone now. The tiki torches we had out there, for 11 years are gone, too. They said we are not allowed to have an open flame on the beach, but they were gas. We had a propane tank for them, and had lines put them especially for them.”
These complaints came in to Code Enforcement office earlier in the year, and both complaints were classified as “violations” on April 29. Why they waited until now to enforce the violations, however, is a mystery.
The exact wording of the complaint and violation was listed as “new impervious surface with walls added for additional outdoor restaurant seating without a development order,” and “gas lines extended to outdoor torches.” They also received a violation for “canopy addition with electric over outdoor dining room without permit.”
On May 31 Lee County Code Enforcement cited South Beach for “Interior and exterior building lights that directly/indirectly illuminate sea turtle nesting habitat” and “beach furniture, chairs and tables, etc. have not been removed form the beach between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.”
In fact, DeStefano said his insurance company adjuster’s advice was to put in better lighting in the parking lot. As you can see above, that couldn’t happen because of sea turtle regulations and because of code enforcement.
With insurance adjusters telling the restaurant to brighten things up and code enforcement telling them to dim things down, it’s quite a catch-22.
“The unfortunate problem is, some of us bought places that already had these things.”
It might be confusing when you try to find South Beach on the list of Code Enforcement complaints. While their address in the phone book and on their sign is 777 Gulf Blvd., the post office made them change it to 760 Gulf Boulevard. That is because when the road that used to run along the beach was removed many decades ago and Gulf Boulevard was created, suddenly South Beach was on the wrong side of the road. While you will find them under their old address on most GPS systems on the internet, they are now actually 760 Gulf Blvd.
South Beach is also under the sharp eye of the law because of their new sign. They were cited for putting the new sign up, and a hearing has been scheduled.
Currently there is an open case against the Pink Pony for the hole in the side of the building where the take-out food is supplied to customers, and at South Beach, concerning the new sign. All other complaints against businesses are closed at this time.
Since January 1 of this year there have been 34 official complaints lodged with code enforcement regarding island properties. There have been 51 individuals and businesses cited for violations.
There are always more violations than complaints because code enforcement officers are required to log additional violations while they are at the location.