One week after Bradenton officials concluded a contested journey to a new noise ordinance, Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith has begun the push for the creation of the city’s first official entertainment district.
But the first push is not along the Ninth Street West corridor that features Motorworks Brewing, Darwin Brewing Company and LECOM Park, long considered to be the city’s unofficial entertainment district. Instead, Smith proposes to create the city’s first entertainment district in the heart of Old Manatee, bordering areas of Ninth and Seventh streets east, with some areas extending out to 10th Street East.
Old Manatee is the first area of the county that was settled and is currently considered the city’s antique historical district, and it looks like it.
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“The city was supposed to fix up this area a long time ago,” said Marley Cripe, manager of the Central Cafe. “So I think it’s a great idea. There’s a perception out there that this area is dangerous because of the way it looks, but we’ve been here for 16 years without a single issue. Cleaner streets and better lighting would go a long way in helping it become an entertainment district and more walkable because it gets really dark around here at night.”
The western boundary would be Third Avenue East, intentionally leaving the new Caddy’s at the Pointe along the Manatee River out of the district.
Ward 1 Councilman Gene Gallo said it didn’t make sense to leave the only true entertainment business out of the boundary area. Smith said his reasoning is obvious from the way “20 people” from the Village of the Arts swayed the council to vote against what members had long supported as a more business friendly ordinance.
I’m certainly open to any suggested expansion, as long as it doesn’t kill my proposal.
Ward 4 Councilman Bemis Smith
“I’m certainly open to any suggested expansion, as long as it doesn’t kill my proposal,” Smith said. “Twenty people showed up and we voted down what we had long supported, so I’ve learned my lesson.”
The area in the proposed district is zoned commercial and would have the least effect on residential area of any areas the city is considering as entertainment districts in the future. But that would change once construction of the 520-unit Villages at Riverwalk apartments is complete.
Officials acknowledge action should take place before the first tenant moves in so there is an understanding that they are moving into an entertainment district.
“It’s a good start to moving in the right direction and probably the easiest one to do first,” Ward 5 Councilman Harold Byrd said.
City officials also acknowledge that the city needs to better define what an entertainment district means. Currently, it just means that it is an area that the city can adjust noise levels beyond the limits of the existing ordinance. So much so, city administrator Carl Callahan prefers the term “noise exception areas,” over entertainment district.
Cripe said she would like Old Manatee to be a little different from downtown Bradenton, however.
“I like the idea, but entertainment district implies a lot of bars and there are plenty of those downtown,” she said. “I would definitely like to see more restaurants and shops. Give the people a reason to walk around the area during the day and night, but that would mean more sidewalks, too.”
Now we go to step two to move us forward and progress the noise ordinance toward a positive.
Ward 2 Councilman Gene Brown
John Izmirlian, owner of Fisherman’s Headquarters, agreed.
“Nighttime entertainment wouldn’t affect me personally,” he said. “I do business from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. But if they created a situation that brings people to this area at all times of the day, then I think it’s a great idea.”
Everyone seems to agree that parking would be an issue in Old Manatee where it can be scarce. New development would hopefully address some of those concerns, but day time business owners like Izmirlian have no issue giving up their parking lots at night to support a healthy business community. While numbers have not yet been discussed, a new entertainment district would allow for louder and longer levels of noise related to entertainment.
Councilman Gene Brown said officials have taken some negative feedback on last week’s noise ordinance vote.
“But if people would understand what we did and be involved in the whole thing to move us forward, they would know we are only at step one,” he said. “Now we go to step two to move us forward and progress the noise ordinance toward a positive.”