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Pierside gets approval for outdoor tables

Some fear they will interfere with pedestrians

March 8, 2016
By John Morton ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Despite objections from some residents who fear Times Square is getting too crowded, the Pierside Grill was given the green light by unanimous vote Monday to set up 10 outdoor tables adjacent to its location. It is renting the space from the town for $6 per square foot for the 40 square feet it desires, totally $240 for the year.

But is the space truly adjacent? It is part of an alley-like corridor shared by several connected buildings and, if anything, more adjacent to the neighboring Dairy Queen. Still, the town's codes supported the Pierside's plan because expansion is allowed as long as it is adjacent to the building in which an applicant resides.

Mayor Anita Cereceda, who owns the Pier Peddler in the same building, warned the restaurant that the area it wants to set up the tables is right in her path to her dumpster.

"I may be walking at night right through you on my way to the trash," she said.

And council member Rexann Hosafros wondered how customers would access the tables.

Doug Speiron-Smith, representing the Pierside, said noted the restaurant's front door used to exist in the very location before being switched to being closer to the public pier. He said a hallway leads to the back area where the tables will be, so customers won't have to cut through the kitchen.

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"There's no vibrancy to the area at all," he said. "We'll clear up that area."

Location wasn't the only issue that tabled the request for two weeks, as some voiced it will clog up an already over-crowded Times Square pedestrian area.

"Greed," is how resident Doris Grant described both the restaurant's and the town's actions. "We're talking about a congested mass of bodies in Times Square, and that space is available and should go toward better things. It should go for $25 per square foot."

Resident Dave Ennis agreed.

"It's supposed to be a pedestrian area. We're giving too much space away," he said.

Furthermore, a public bench will have to be relocated to accommodate the tables. A condition that the Pierside buy a new bench and work with the town to find a new location for it in Times Square was part of the approval.

Resident Jeannette Swanson said Times Square is losing its purpose.

"Apparently it's becoming a place to eat or be drunk. It's no longer a place you can just meander," she said.

Last month, the Sunset Beach Tropical Grill also got approval to rent 8 square feet of space for a free-standing pizza-and-soda counter and two tables to accompany it.

Others said that while the cafes in Times Square legitimately needed outside seating in lieu of any inside space, both the Pierside and Sunset Beach Tropical Grill not only already had adequate inside seating, but a Gulf of Mexico view to boot.

Bud Nocera, president of the Fort Myers Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, applauded the approval.

"It's been a tough season so far," he said. "Anything we can do to help these folks would be appreciated."

Last year, the council agreed to rent Times Square space as a means to help businesses and bring in revenue to the town's coffers.



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