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Bar owner stunned to lose vote over liquor

The owner of Potbellies says he will start holding $1 beer nights for bikers and ''turn this place into their biggest fear.''

By RON MATUS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 2, 2002


More cocktails won't be coming to Himes Avenue.

But could hordes of beefy bikers be coming instead?

The Tampa City Council voted 4-1 last week to deny a wet zoning change that would have allowed hard liquor sales at Potbellies, a family restaurant at 3826 S Himes that now serves beer and wine.

The decision came despite more than 1,000 signatures on a petition in support.

It "doesn't fit the configuration" of the neighborhood, said council member Rose Ferlita, who made the motion to deny the change.

The day after the vote, Potbellies owner Sam Lovely said he was going to expand the restaurant's hours of operation and start holding $1 beer nights for bikers.

"We're going to turn this place into their biggest fear," he said.

Opposition was led by Sue Lyon, president of both the Bayshore Beautiful Homeowners Association and a citywide homeowners association. She and a handful of other neighborhood leaders said hard liquor sales would put more drunk drivers on area streets and pave the way for more bars.

"I'm glad we won," Lyon said after the vote.

As for bikers: "It's their business. They can do what they want," she said. "I'm not going to object to whatever they say they're going to do until they do it."

Lovely and his wife, Brenda, were stunned by the vote, which was supported by council members Linda Saul-Sena, Bob Buckhorn and Charlie Miranda.

Council member Mary Alvarez voted no.

Attorney Sue Murphy, who represented the Lovelys, said an appeal to Circuit Court on the zoning was unlikely.

The Lovelys, who have owned Potbellies for five years, said they wanted a liquor license to attract more customers.

They were supported by their closest neighbors and had 300 signatures from Bayshore Beautiful residents. Even a preacher, the Rev. Donald Bishop of South Tampa Church of God, wrote a letter of support.

Gerard Bracken, one of several people who spoke in favor of the zoning at the council meeting, pointed out the Lovelys live above the restaurant with their 5-year-old son.

"That should say the world about the people," he said.

As a condition of the zoning change, the Lovelys offered to stop hard liquor sales at midnight Monday through Thursday and at 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

They said no patrons younger than 21 would be allowed after 9 p.m.

When Alvarez asked if they would also agree to not serve hard liquor until 5 p.m., they did so on the spot.

The council denied the zoning with little discussion.

-- Ron Matus can be reached at 226-3405 or matus@sptimes.com.

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