Siesta Seen

Village Association discussion arises over seafood festival planned on Siesta Public Beach in December; Sheriff’s Office finds a better way to manage beach parking lot traffic on the Fourth; expanded Siesta Fiesta planned again in 2017; Code Enforcement officer gives restaurants a ‘heads up’ over music volume

Russell Matthes (left) and Wendall Jacobsen prepare for the start of the meeting. Rachel Hackney photo
Russell Matthes (left) and Wendall Jacobsen prepare for the start of the meeting. Rachel Hackney photo

Members of the Siesta Key Village Association (SKVA) made it clear this week they are not pleased with the concept of the Siesta Beach Seafood & Music Festival, scheduled for Dec. 3-4 on Siesta Public Beach.

The event “was brought to our attention by accident, actually,” SKVA President Wendall Jacobsen announced during the organization’s monthly meeting, held on July 5 at the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar.

A form someone had provided to the SKVA showed the festival is being planned by Paragon Fine Art Festivals, which is headed by Siesta resident Bill Kinney, The Sarasota News Leader learned.

None of the SKVA members had heard about the event until someone had passed along the form, Jacobsen noted. Ann Frescura, executive director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, said the Chamber had not received any formal information about the festival, either.

When Michael Shay, the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. liaison, asked whether Paragon had obtained a county permit for the December event, Jacobsen replied that he did not know.

The News Leader learned from county spokesman Drew Winchester on July 6 that Paragon has made a reservation for use of the beach and has paid a $500 deposit. The total for fees and tax will be $2,479,87, according to the form Winchester provided the News Leader.

Among the details The Sarasota News Leader found on the Paragon Fine Art Festival website are that the event will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4.

The Paragon Fine Art Festival website offers examples of works from show participants. Image from the website
The Paragon Fine Art Festivals website offers examples of works from past show participants. Image from the website

The description notes, “The event is a unique blending of food, music and visual entertainment affording attendees a potpourri of delectable seafood creations and delicious drinks prepared by the top restaurants in Siesta Key and Sarasota. Combined with the mouth-watering foods will be outstanding musical performances by local and regional [musicians] in a diversity of genres from Scottish [bagpipes] and classical [quartets] to bands of various flavors: rock-and-roll, jazz, calypso and reggae. Another integral component is an extraordinary outdoor gallery of fine arts and crafts by artisans from around the nation. If you are a fine artisan or craft vendor consider becoming part of this event and broadening your market base in Florida.”

The website also indicates general admission will be free, but VIP tent access will cost $50.

SKVA Director Russell Matthes, co-owner of the Daiquiri Deck restaurants, pointed out during the July 5 meeting that Paragon also has scheduled events on St. Armands Circle and in downtown Sarasota and St. Petersburg during 2017.

“It takes a little away from businesses,” he pointed out of plans for the seafood festival on the Key.

During a July 6 telephone interview, Kinney told the News Leader he has been planning the Siesta Beach event for more than a year. “We’ve done plenty of outreach with the businesses,” he added.

He originally proposed the festival as an alternative to Siesta Fiesta, he explained, having discussed that prospect with SKVA Vice President Mark Smith of Smith Architects in May 2015, as detailed in an email Kinney provided the News Leader. “It could have been [the SKVA’s] signature event, Kinney added of the December event.

Paragon conducted its first Sarasota Seafood and Music Festival in downtown Sarasota in January in collaboration with the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association. Ron Soto, chair of that organization, wrote in his March message to members, “With literally thousands of attendees, the two-day event was a home run for the SDMA, thanks to Bill Kinney and Paragon Events, the festival’s producers.”

Kinney pointed out to the News Leader that while Paragon organizes events nationwide for not-for-profit organizations, its efforts in Sarasota County so far have been on behalf of the Sarasota Downtown Merchants Association and the Humane Society of Sarasota County.

Kinney said he has signed up about five seafood restaurants so far for the Siesta dates, including Walt’s Fish Market and Restaurant. He pointed out, though, that it is early in the planning process.

Given that this would be a for-profit event, Matthes said during the SKVA meeting, he felt it would set a bad precedent for Siesta Public Beach. He added that he did not believe the Daiquiri Deck, Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar and other seafood restaurants on the Key would participate in it, “when we have our own brick-and-mortar right here …”

“This is a money-making option for these folks,” SKVA Vice President Smith concurred with Matthes about Paragon.

Kinney told the News Leader that his expenses probably will run about $40,000 for the event, including rental of a stage and equipment for the musical groups that will perform.

After SKVA members were able to learn more about the proposal for the event, Matthes said during the meeting, they would report on their findings.

A fine Fourth

Deputy Chris McGregor. File photo
Deputy Chris McGregor. File photo

With construction of the Siesta Public Beach upgrades still underway over July Fourth in 2015, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office observed a bit of a lull in the usual holiday traffic and crowd issues, Deputy Chris McGregor told about 15 people during the July 5 SKVA meeting.

This year, he continued, “it was a very, very busy Fourth of July.”

McGregor elicited laughter at the outset of his report when he deadpanned, “Slow day yesterday.”

On July 4, he pointed out, the parking lots at Siesta Public Beach were already full between 8:30 and 9 a.m.

However, with extra Sheriff’s Office personnel on hand, McGregor explained, deputies “were able to regulate the parking lot a little bit. … Instead of the fights and the disturbances we would normally have over a busy beach weekend, we had none in the parking lot.”

During an interview with the News Leader after the meeting, McGregor explained that as soon as deputies saw the parking areas were full, they prevented vehicles from entering them. Then, whenever an officer saw vehicles leaving, the officer would communicate that fact to other deputies, who would allow in exactly the number of vehicles to replace those that had departed.

McGregor told the SKVA members that “some minor disturbances” did occur at the beach, and some arrests were made, but nothing significant was reported.

He explained to the News Leader that underage possession of alcohol and disorderly conduct typically are the situations that lead to arrests during a big holiday gathering on the beach.

Regarding the annual fireworks display: “It was an outstanding, outstanding show last night,” Siesta Chamber Executive Director Frescura reported, noting, “We have received pledges that are on target for our goal” to pay for the display.

The Sunset Royale complex stands across Beach Road fromSiesta Public Beach. File photo
The Sunset Royale complex, where Paul Parr owns condominiums for rent, stands across Beach Road from Siesta Public Beach. File photo

At least by the time she finished up at the beach — between 11 and 11:30 on the night of the Fourth — the traffic had cleared so she could leave easily, Frescura told the News Leader before the SKVA meeting began.

Paul Parr, who owns and rents condominiums overlooking the public beach, added that he tells tenants who will be staying in them over the Fourth that after the fireworks end, the show continues, as the throngs leave the beach and fight the traffic to reach their destinations.

An arrest in beach thefts

As for crime in general on the Key: McGregor told the SKVA members that the Sheriff’s Office recently had registered an uptick in thefts of personal property left unattended on the beach. However, a woman was arrested in connection with those incidents after she used a credit or debit card that had been reported stolen, he added.

The shows will go on

In the aftermath of the most recent Siesta Fiesta — held April 9-10 — discussion ensued among SKVA members about whether to continue to restrict the event to the sidewalks, as the organization did this year, or let it take over part of Ocean Boulevard, as it has in the past.

Based on feedback, SKVA Director Matthes reported this week, the event next year will entail a street closure once again.

The SKVA has signed contracts with Howard Alan Events & American Craft Endeavors to hold Siesta Fiesta April 29-30 in 2017; the Siesta Key Craft Festival — in its 20th incarnation, the SKVA website notes — will be held Feb. 25-26, 2017, Matthes said. The Craft Festival vendors do not set up booths in the street.

During the SKVA’s general meeting in August, Matthes continued, he plans to ask for volunteers to serve on a committee “to attempt to liven [Siesta Fiesta] up a little bit,” perhaps with musical groups and/or a designated area for wine and beer sales.

That next SKVA meeting will be held on Aug. 2 at 8:30 a.m. at the Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar.

A ‘heads up’ from Code Enforcement

Kevin Burns. File photo
Kevin Burns. File photo

Sarasota County Code Enforcement Officer Kevin Burns stopped by a number of Village restaurants before the July Fourth holiday weekend to let staff members know he had heard a “lot of complaints” about noise emanating from the businesses, “which was news to me,” SKVA Director Russell Matthes said during the July 5 SKVA meeting.

In response to a question from Matthes, Deputy Chris McGregor of the Sheriff’s Office reported that even though he usually goes off duty at 6 p.m., he had not heard anything about such complaints and he felt he would have.

“He was actually pretty pleasant,” Stephanie Brown, general manager of the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, said of Burns when he stopped at that dining establishment. Burns explained that he had walked through the Village the previous Saturday, she continued, and had heard loud music.

Matthes added that he had phoned Burns and felt the visits to the restaurants to be Burns’ way of saying, “Hey, I’m here.”

Burns promised to attend the August SKVA meeting, Matthes noted.

Burns originally won approval from the County Commission in August 2012 to handle overtime work for Code Enforcement, starting in the 2013 fiscal year. Rob Lewis, then-director of the Planning and Development Services Department, proposed Burns for the assignment, though the board’s decision specifically was to allow 10 to 12 hours of overtime per week for Code Enforcement in general. The vote followed numerous complaints about noise late at night and on the weekends in Siesta Village.

Peter van Roekens, the liaison from the Terrace East condominium association to the SKVA, pointed out during the organization’s meeting this week that the only restaurant with which Terrace East has had difficulties in recent months has been Blasé Café, which is across Ocean Boulevard from the building. “This past week has been perfect,” he added, with no problems.