This has to do with a 5-year battle the town has been locked in with Sunset Grill owner Terry Persaud and whether or not his restaurant should be allowed to sell alcohol on the beach. The latest court ruling says he is, and Persaud says the town owes him millions of dollars in lost alcohol sales from the last five years.
Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeals has reversed and remanded a lower court decision that ruled in favor of the town.
In 1995 the town adopted an ordinance prohibiting the sale of alcohol on the beach. At the time the ordinance was adopted the Sunset Grill property had a valid license to serve alcohol both inside and on the beach and that license was grandfathered in.
In 2014, Persaud closed the bar and restaurant to begin extensive renovations. The town was well aware of the renovations as construction permits had to be issued and inspections had to be made. During the year the restaurant was closed, the property’s liquor license had been held in escrow or “inactive status” by the Department of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. The town knew this fact, according to the latest court ruling.
When the renovations were completed in October 2015, Persaud sought the necessary approval to reopen and begin selling alcohol inside the restaurant and on the beach. The town advised Persaud he could not sell alcohol on the beach, claiming he abandoned the liquor license and would no longer be grandfathered in.
Persaud then filed a lawsuit against the town.
The trial court ruled the town had properly determined that Persaud had abandoned the nonconforming use of the property.
However, last week, the Court of Appeals reversed that decision writing that there was no evidence that Persaud intended to discontinue selling alcohol on the beach. “Persaud did not abandon or discontinue the nonconforming use of the property during the one-year period of closure where renovations and construction were ongoing. Persaud is therefore entitled, under the applicable provisions of the town’s – 10 – municipal code, to maintain the property’s status as a grandfathered nonconforming use. Our conclusion with regard to the declaratory action requires a reversal of the judgment as to all other counts. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment in favor of the town and remand for entry of a judgment in favor of Persaud on the declaratory relief count. Reversed and remanded.”
In short the court ruled that closing for less than one year to make renovations was not an abandonment of the license.
Persuad believes the town’s action cost him millions of dollars in lost alcohol sales over those five years.
It’s unclear as of today if the town will appeal the ruling. The town council does not meet again until January.
We understand that there have been discussions with Persaud and at least one town town council member to try to put this matter to rest, which includes allowing Persaud to sell alcohol on the beach behind his restaurant.