Many watch to see how beer and wine impacts AMI's Coquina Beach

rdymond@bradenton.comNovember 26, 2012 

BRADENTON BEACH -- By a 3-2 vote, Bradenton Beach city commissioners recently approved a beer and wine license for the roughly 6-month-old Coquina Cafe on Coquina Beach.

Although there wasn't passionate dialogue from residents on either side of the issue, many are now watching to see if alcohol at the new boardwalk-style Coquina Cafe, which used to be not much more than a hot dog stand, becomes an asset for the popular beach or a detriment.

Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Gay Breuler, along with fellow commissioner Jan Vosburgh, cast the two "no" votes on Nov. 15 for the beer and wine permit, which is expected to go into effect between now and January.

Mayor John Shaughnessey and commissioners Ed Straight and Rick Gatehouse voted for it.

"I am not terribly upset that it passed," Breuler said Sunday. "But, personally, I know that Coquina has been named one of the Top 10 family beaches in Florida or the country, and I did not think alcohol was necessary on a family beach."

Bradenton Beach city commissioners first voted down the permit during the spring when Mark Enoch and Alan Kahana, owners of United Park Services, which operates the Coquina Cafe, first applied for it.

At that time, Enoch and Kahana were already remodeling the footprint of what is now the Coquina Cafe, adding the boardwalk style patio and dreaming of having a tiki bar there and music.

"It was a crummy old hot dog stand," Breuler said with a chuckle. "I love what they have done. I love the patio now."

The commissioners, during their spring "no-vote," were reacting to the concerns of Bradenton Beach Police Chief

Sam Speciale, who felt he did not have the necessary manpower to have alcohol at the cafe, Breuler said.

"On the first go-round, our chief of police was a little worried about alcohol on the beach and the fact he didn't have the coverage he would like," Breuler said. "We had discussions, and people from Manatee County and the city of Bradenton Beach met with the vendors from the cafe.

"The vendors agreed to pay for one off- duty police officer," he said. "After that the chief felt we would be covered."

Speciale could not immediately be reached for comment.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, noting she is a non-drinker, said Sunday that she supported the beer and wine permit, but mainly because United Park Services also effectively operates the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

"They have been running with beer and wine at the public beach with no problems and apparently no issues," Whitmore said.

"It is a business model for them and they seem to be successful. It will allow people to have a glass of wine at sunset on Coquina or a beer."

To be sensitive to the concerns of the commission, the Coquina Cafe will never be open past 9 p.m. and will only serve alcohol in identifiable wine glasses or beer mugs, said Tanner Enoch, son of co-owner Mark Enoch.

"We will have signs that alcohol will only be allowed on our deck," Tanner Enoch said. "We are not trying to turn the cafe into a night club."

Soon, the Coquina Cafe will offer breakfast, which, with its pancakes, has become the trademark of the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe, Enoch said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686.

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