LPA Approves Rude Shrimp Special Exception

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By a vote of 7-0, the Fort Myers Beach Local Planning Agency approved a Special Exception for Rude Shrimp allowing “the consumption of alcohol at a restaurant with a bar visible from the exterior of the restaurant.” It was an emotional discussion that had customers and neighbors taking sides.

Rude Shrimp has been operating on property owned by Moss Marina since June of 2023. The building Rude Shrimp was operating out of on Estero Boulevard was destroyed by Hurricane Ian. Shortly after Ian, owners TJ Holzapfel and Lisa Lahners reopened in a shipping container on Estero Boulevard before moving over to Moss Marina. They hope to be one of the businesses in the new Moss Marina Arches development if that’s approved by the town. The town issued Rude Shrimp a temporary permit for a restaurant with storage and merchandising on June 8, 2023. That permit is valid until September of 2025.

While the Special Exception request to the LPA was to allow Rude Shrimp to serve alcohol from a bar visible from the exterior, the public comment portion of the hearing veered off into a discussion about sound. Several neighbors near the location spoke up about how loud the live music was at the restaurant. While some Matanzas Court property owners said the music was too loud for their residential neighborhood, Rude Shrimp has never been cited by the town for violating the noise ordinance. Also, Lahners told the LPA that she’s constantly monitoring how loud the music is, the entertainers now face away from the neighborhood, and she’s in constant contact with residents about the music.
About that music, Matanzas Court resident Emily Stevenson said, “My concern is that this stays enforced. I have lost my trust.” Jay Bonema added, “Zoning laws are in place to protect property rights. Our peace and quiet has been destroyed.”

Bob Grabo, who lives on a boat and says he’s the closest neighbor to Rude Shrimp said, “The music does not offend us in any way. The music is not too loud. We are 100 feet from the stage and it doesn’t bother us.” Local entertainer Stephen Clark, added, “People will come to Fort Myers Beach just because of Rude Shrimp.”

There were more people supporting Rude Shrimp than there were in opposition at both the public speaker podium and online during our live feed of the meeting. One of 9 conditions the LPA added onto its unanimous approval was that the Special Exception be reviewed in 6 months to make sure there is peace in the neighborhood. LPA Chair Anita Cereceda said, “The 6-month review is absolutely necessary. You have to figure out a way to live harmoniously.

Vice Chair Jane Plummer, who took friends to Rude Shrimp the day before the LPA meeting so she could get feedback from people who did not know about the music controversy, said at the meeting, “We are all neighbors. Put respect first. Respect is something not being handled here. There’s a lot of pointing fingers here.” Plummer said her friends had a good time and would certainly go back.

Rude Shrimp owner Lisa Lahners hugs neighbor Jay Bonema

At one point the audience did jeer one of the neighbors who has consistently complained about the music, and, a speaker supporting Rude Shrimp said this was a personal vendetta by a neighbor against the owners of the restaurant. What the LPA is hoping for over the next 6 months is that both sides can work things out and live together in peace.

In addition to the 7 original conditions the LPA approved from staff, two new ones were added. The LPA wants to see a hurricane evacuation plan and they want a guarantee that the entertainers will face away from the neighborhood. Both conditions were agreed to by Lahners .

While the public discussion evolved into a neighborhood battle over music levels, the LPA was only asked to approve or deny a Special Exception to allow Rude Shrimp to continue operating a bar that’s visible from the exterior of the restaurant. The Moss Marina property is zoned to allow for a restaurant but the way Rude Shrimp is set up calls for the Special Exception.

After hearing the public comment from about 30 people and discussing the issue amongst themselves, LPA members voted 7-0 to approve the Special Exception with these 7 other conditions the town staff recommended:

1) Approval of this special exception does not give the Applicant an undeniable right to permit approval. Development or redevelopment of the Property must comply with all applicable requirements of the Fort Myers Beach Page 135 of 187 Page 6 of 4 Comprehensive Plan and LDC in effect at the time of permit approval, except as specifically modified herein.

2) Lighting must be downward directed, shielded and may not created glare off of property.

3) The special exception to allow an outdoor bar shall be temporary, for a period of 6 months from the date of this resolution or until construction of a new building has begun, whichever happens first.

4) Live music is allowed on 450 Harbor Court but drums are not allowed as part of the entertainment.

5) Amplified music is allowed on 450 Harbor Court until 6:30pm Sunday through Thursday, after which amplified music may not be louder than 65-decibles as long as the other conditions of approval are upheld.

6) Amplified music is allowed on 450 Harbor Court on Friday and Saturday and will be controlled by the Town’s noise ordinance (LDC sec. 14-23; Table-1), as long as the other conditions of approval are upheld.

7) The variance shall only apply to the lot as shown on the provided site plan.

The Town Council will have the final say on the application. There was not enough time to get the issue on the Town Council agenda this Monday so it will likely come up at the first Town Council meeting in April.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Bunch of people with nothing better to do than complain. It is gonna give the town legal issues in the future of “you let them do it, you need to let us,” essentially the same issue we deal with when children want something another got to do.

    For those complaining. If people on the boats in the Marina can barely hear it or arent bothered, sound travels more easily over water than over air (yes science I know!) There are noise ordinances in place. The town is growing and catering more to the rich tourist than the middle class resident. The current council is seeing dollar signs and the end of what was the little town charm of FMB.

  2. As always. When u grant exceptions you open yourself up to legal challenges if you try and deny someone else. Which In turn is going to cost residence $$ with town legal expenses. You either stick to code or you don’t!!!!!

  3. Why are people who do not own property or live on Estero Island even allowed to speak either in favor of or against a resolution before the Town of Fort Myers Beach LPA? Their opinions are irrelevant and carry no force of law. Would we be allowed to testify at a zoning hearing in New York City? I think not.

    Once again, minimal regard for the rights of property owners and residents and in favor of the seemingly inalienable right of businesses to change the character of neighborhoods and disturb the peace with abandon.

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