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Owner closes jazz bar

City officials aren't changing existing regulations to allow West Bay Cabaret to remain a bar.

Published May 12, 2004

LARGO - West Bay Cabaret has decided to shut its doors.

A few months ago, Beth Saenz turned her wine and cigar shop into a jazz bar to attract more customers. But the move violated the city's alcohol ordinance.

The cabaret, at 216 West Bay Drive, is located in the West Bay Drive redevelopment district, which allows restaurants to serve alcohol only if food sales make up more than 51 percent of their gross receipts.

Stand-alone bars are prohibited. And smoking is prohibited in restaurants.

The jazz bar sells wine, beer, coffee drinks and desserts. Customers can smoke cigars.

Commissioners said they would like to keep a business that's doing well in Largo, and had asked staffers to research possible changes to the ordinance. But last week, they decided against changing the existing regulations.

Saenz received a violation notice April 28 for not complying with the city's alcohol sales ordinance. It is possible that she is also violating the Americans with Disabilities Act because the cabaret lacks a wheelchair-accessible bathroom, officials said.

City staffers asked Saenz to produce sales receipts for April 29 to May 1. Then they sent another letter asking for receipts for the period April 1 through May 1. Her deadline: 5 p.m. Monday.

Another issue, says Assistant City Attorney Tammi Bach, is that Saenz has an occupational license for a liquor store, not for a restaurant or bar.

"We're trying to work with her," Bach said.

But Saenz said she had enough. She closed the jazz bar Thursday.

"It's kind of frustrating," said her husband, Raul Saenz. "We've got a very sour taste in our mouth right now."

Raul Saenz said customers were happy they didn't have to drive to Tampa or Clearwater to listen to jazz.

Several such customers wrote to commissioners in support of West Bay Cabaret.

"It's sad," said Largo resident Debbie Carter, who discovered the place while walking her dog in the area. "The ambience was so upscale for the neighborhood. It was wonderful."

- Shannon Tan can be reached at or 445-4174.

[Last modified May 12, 2004, 01:56:30]

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