Residents voice concern about safety in south business area

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By Rachel Brown Hackney, SarasotaNewsLeader.com

Some residents are complaining that customers of Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar and the Crescent Club, businesses just south of the intersection of Midnight Pass and Stickney Point roads, are impeding bicyclists and pedestrians.

Said Siesta Key Association president Catherine Luckner to Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Sheriff’s Office’s substation on the Key, “We’ve had a lot of people spilling into the road,” in the area of those two establishments. “I don’t know what can be done … to get them out of the road. … There’s also a lot of noise.”

She voiced her concerns during an April 1 meeting of the group.

“If there’s people standing in the roadway, and you feel it’s a safety issue, call us,” Smith replied. “A deputy will come out [to investigate the situation].”

Smith added that he would talk with representatives of Capt. Curt’s about the complaints.

SKA director Erin Kreis said the greater problem is at the neighboring Crescent Club, which has outdoor seating in front of the bar that is situated right on top of the 2-foot-wide sidewalk.

Resident Jim Wallace said that he had seen a change at the front of the Crescent Club that appeared to have ameliorated the problems to some degree — the removal of planters that may have encroached upon the sidewalk.

Nonetheless, Wallace said, “It’s still bad.”

“I will check into it,” Smith promised, adding that he could understand why the situation would be more problematic at the Crescent Club than at Capt. Curt’s, based on the property where the establishment stands.

“You have to check it out on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night,” Kreis advised Smith.

Given the fact that so many people are on the Key for spring break, she said, “Two weeks from now, it might be different …”

Said Wallace, “We have no sidewalk whatsoever in front of the Crescent Club.”

A narrow sidewalk to the far right, followed by a bike lane, and then the street, are what pedestrians find in front of the Crescent Club. The tight paths and busy nature of the area have caused concern for some residents. (photo by John Morton)

Therefore, people have been accustomed to walking in the bike lane on Midnight Pass Road, while bicyclists have been forced into the street with vehicular traffic.

Wallace called the situation “very dangerous.”

A search of the county’s permitting records for the Crescent Club, which is located at 6519 Midnight Pass Rd., showed that county staff had received several complaints over the past months about similar issues.

In June, a caller reported that the owners of the Crescent Club had “taken over the sidewalk” and were “putting folding signs in the bike path.”

Code enforcement staff investigated that complaint and called it “unfounded,” as noted on June 20.

Then, on Oct. 21, a caller reported that “the bar area that is set up in front of this business is impeding the line of [sight] for [pedestrian] and street traffic.”

As of April 5, that complaint was still open, county permitting records showed.

Next, on Jan. 13, someone called the county to say the Crescent Club’s “recent expansion in front (probably due to relaxation in rules due to Covid-19) is encroaching on the walking and bike path along Midnight Pass Road, which puts pedestrians and bikers in the path of traffic.”

A building compliance investigation also resulted in that complaint being identified as unfounded.

Documentation received about that complaint, through a public records request, said, “All work was permitted. No building violations noted. There are some decorative potted plants which may be a code or zoning issue. Forwarded to [code enforcement] for review.”

Then, a March 29 complaint was made about the planters in the area that the person considered to be the street setback. A code enforcement investigation ensued, the permitting form showed, but it was closed the following day, on March 30.

In an April 5 email, County Public Records Specialist Bethany Higgins reported that code enforcement staff had told her that the Crescent Club had moved the potted plants back into the appropriate area.

John Morton
Author: John Morton

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