Florida Keys News
Monday, July 15, 2013
New bar proposed in former arcade

The owners of a former arcade and bingo hall inside a commercial building in the 100 block of Simonton Street want to open a 175-seat bar.

But the application filed by Historic Tours of America has to pass the Planning Board's review first.

A bar is allowed at 146-150 Simonton St. with city permission only, which happened for HTA in 2005 when the arcade was made a "conditional use."

Now, HTA is asking the city to amend that 2005 decision from arcade to bar open 7 a.m. to 4 a.m. seven days a week inside a commercial complex called Simonton Row.

The item, which the Planning Board has postponed twice since May, is on the panel's agenda for the 6 p.m. Thursday meeting set for Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.

City planners have recommended approval for the bar plan, as long as a host of conditions are met governing outdoor music or speakers. Any indoor music, even karaoke, would require a special permit and seating is limited to 175 people indoors only.

"There are numerous existing bars and lounges within the immediate vicinity of this proposed bar and lounge," Senior Planner Brendon Cunningham wrote in a report to the Planning Board. "Therefore, the use appears appropriate to the district and compatible with other uses around Simonton Row and Greene Street."

But one neighboring business, the Smith and Oropeza law firm, is opposing the arrival of a bar.

Noise, parking and odors -- including cigarette smoke -- will disrupt the law firm's workdays, wrote attorney Barton Smith in a June 17 letter to the Planning Board's seven members.

"Due to the thin walls, anything above normal conversations can be heard by the adjacent property," wrote Smith. "A 175-seat bar is not compatible with the adjacent office uses based simply on this issue."

The board's members include attorney Greg Oropeza, half of the law firm's namesake.

Oropeza said he will step down from the dais when the board reviews HTA's bar request and said he didn't want to publicly state an opinion on the application.

Smith promised to speak at the board's Thursday meeting.

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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