City Commission confirms approval of council’s cigar store | sarasota

The city commission voted Monday to approve a downtown cigar store and lounge, unanimously upholding a planning and zoning board decision earlier this month, but not without some unexpected discussion.

Originally set as part of the City Commission’s Consent Program, which typically lumps issues together for a single vote without discussion, Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch asked her colleagues to register a yes or no vote on the issue.

“The planning board voted 4-1 and 5-0, and instead of just going through the rest of the consent elements, I think it’s important that we take express action and vote to set it at a public hearing or that we approve it on their recommendation,” Ahearn-Koch said.

At issue was a proposal put forward by Corona Cigar Co. to redo the building at the corner of First Street and Lemon Avenue into an operation that would sell premium cigars and provide indoor and outdoor lounge space to not only smoke cigars but also serve drinks and some food.

Although the proposal was ultimately approved, the Planning and Zoning Board discussed the issues of outdoor smoke and its effects on passersby. This is an issue that has arisen before in the context of downtown and activities that could potentially harm area residents or visitors, such as those who might come downtown to check out the farmers market at weekends, art exhibitions or the like.

Commissioners said Monday that the proposal would likely benefit downtown and saw no reason to require Corona Cigar Co. owner Jeff Borysiewicz to appear at a public hearing to re-argue his case.

“This property, I agree with much of what was said at the planning board hearing, including that the property is next to the bus stop, an area troubled,” Commissioner Hagen Brody said. “We have a great candidate and business owner who wants to do business in the city of Sarasota and bring their business and this equipment downtown and I think that’s great. Welcome to them.”

Ahearn-Koch has made it clear that she does not intend to reconsider the merits of the bid, but simply to propose the option for the commissioners to consider.

“That’s part of what we’re trying to accomplish here,” Vice Mayor Kyle Scott Battie said. “Once again, we welcome you and feel no need to take them any further.”

City commissioners voted 7-0 to uphold the Planning and Zoning Board’s decision, paving the way for the cigar business to move forward with plans to convert the former supply store of the kitchen.

Although included in the company’s site plan, the beer garden permit would be administratively reviewed at a later date, meaning the matter would not come before an elected or appointed group.

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