J-Bill to lower seat minimums to sell liquor in San Marco

San Marco has been included in a Florida J-Bill, which applies only to Jacksonville, to grant smaller restaurants in the commercial corridors of Murray Hill and Springfield the ability to serve a full bar instead of just beer and wine.

The J-Bill, a piece of legislation before the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee, was put forth by State representative Tracie Davis. If passed, it would reduce the number of restaurant seats necessary to obtain an alcohol sales license from 150 to 100 in San Marco, Murray Hill and Springfield, said City Council President Lori Boyer during a meeting of the San Marco Merchants Association Jan. 18.

The state approved a similar legislation lowering the number of seats in restaurants on the Southbank and Downtown in 1987, and extended the privilege to 5 Points and other commercial areas in Riverside in 2011 and to the Shoppes of Avondale last year.

Boyer said the measure to cover San Marco, Murray Hill and Springfield has already been approved by City Council as Ordinance 2016-0783 and is in the hands of the state legislature, which took two sessions to pass a similar J-Bill pertaining to Avondale.

The bill changes the SRX (special restaurant exemption) requirements regulating restaurant size to encourage the reuse of smaller historic properties, and only impacts restaurants with the following criteria: have at least 1,800 square feet of service space; at least 100 seats; sell at least 51 percent or more in food (rather than alcohol); will have a kitchen open while alcohol is being served; and already are licensed by the state to serve beer and wine.

Restaurants will still need to apply for a zoning exception for the sale of liquor and must meet other zoning requirements.

The J-Bill will promote re-use of historic properties and increases the viability of smaller restaurants, Boyer said.

“The concept from my perspective is that the 150-seat limitation is a real burden for those who want to reoccupy some of the existing small spaces we have in San Marco. It’s a challenge to combine those small spaces or make those small spaces usable,” she said. “This will encourage the re-use of existing spaces, and that’s why I think it’s important.”

The change will only apply to the “transportation corridor” that is highlighted in the San Marco Overlay, she said. That includes the commercially zoned property in San Marco Square, on Atlantic Boulevard, and San Marco Boulevard from the Square heading north. Commercial properties in Miramar are not included in the change, she said.

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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