Siesta Key Association vows to fight Special Exception application during public hearing
Every one of the eight people who offered comments during a recent Neighborhood Workshop involving south Siesta Key’s Crescent Club expressed strong opposition to the owners’ plan to seek a Special Exception from the Sarasota County Commission so the club can present live music later than 10 p.m. every night.
Most of the speakers emphasized continuing problems with the volume of the live music that already is being presented at the business, which stands at 6519 Midnight Pass Road.
Joseph Reagan, owner of a condominium located at the Sea Crest on Siesta Key condominium complex, which stands at 1129 Seaside Drive, told the club’s representative during the workshop that he and his fellow Sea Crest owners and those in other complexes across Midnight Pass from the club “are going to fight you to the death to prevent this [change] from happening.”
Reagan added, “We will not allow our lives to be taken away from us so that you can sell more beer and have more wild events across the street. You don’t have that right.”
Regan emphasized to Robert “Bo” Medred, president of Genesis Planning and Development in Bradenton, who was hosting the June 19 workshop, “The notion that [the Crescent Club] is a quiet venue that abides by the law is fundamentally a lie.”
Medred’s firm is acting as the agent for the owner of the club, CCSK Land Holdings LLC. Siesta businessman Gary Kompothecras is the principal of that limited liability company.
Medred explained at the outset of the event that the Crescent Club has filed a preliminary application for the Special Exception. The formal request, Medred said, is for the club to be able to continue live music until 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday nights and until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
The area where the bands perform — which is part of a covered patio — will not change, Medred said, noting that retractable doors can enclose that space as needed; those doors were installed a year ago.
Nonetheless, he explained, county Zoning Administrator Donna Thompson suggested that the application for the Special Exception say that the petition is for both indoor and outdoor music. She made that recommendation, Medred noted, “out of an abundance of caution” in consideration of the fact that the performance area is not completely enclosed except when the retractable doors are down.
The performance area is only about 6 feet in length and 12 feet in width, Medred further pointed out. The application, he continued, is “not proposing any stages anywhere else.”
In accord with the provisions of county regulations, Medred stressed, the live music after 10 p.m. can be no louder than it is before 10 p.m. (A chart in the county’s Sound Pollution Ordinance shows the allowed decibel levels at various times of the day and night.)
Further, Medred told the approximately 36 participants that a decibel meter was installed in the club several months ago. Whenever the sound exceeds the allowed level, he added, the performers must lower their volume.
Medred also acknowledged that noise violation complaints had been lodged against the Crescent Club in the past. “They’ve gone through significant means,” he said of the owners, to try to prevent the volume from exceeding the county’s limits. Medred emphasized that the club ownership and management are committed to adhering to the regulations.
Rita Miotti, who lives in the Vista Hermosa Apartments standing at 6725 Midnight Pass Road, told Medred, “The current owner purchased [the club] knowing what the rules were.” In fact, she pointed out, prior to Kompothecras’ acquiring the property in January 2019, she could not recall any live music being performed outdoors on the site. Since he became the principal owner, she added, “Outdoor music has become regular and loud.”
Now he wants to allow live music for another 10 hours a week, she said. “I don’t think that’s a good neighbor idea.”
Miotti talked of being able to hear the Crescent Club music at her unit, which is about a quarter-of-a-mile south of the 7-Eleven located at 6619 Midnight Pass Road.
“Unless there is a strong southeasterly wind blowing” Miotti said, “we can hear the music playing at [the Crescent Club] on our property at night.”
When some bands are playing at the club, Reagan of Sea Crest told Medred, they are “so loud that we can hear them on the fourth floor 300 feet away …”
Reagan also stressed, “The entire [club] property has turned into … nothing short of a nightmare for people who live across the street. Now you are asking for this nightmare to be expanded, so that it goes to midnight.”
Among other points, Reagan told Medred that he never sees the retractable doors down — though other speakers said they have noticed the doors in place at sunset and during inclement weather.
Yet, Miotti pointed out, “I see them down very infrequently — very infrequently.”
Reagan also indicated that calling those retractable panels “doors” was inaccurate, adding that they are made of plastic.
“It is an open-air club on three sides,” Reagan added. “You are already breaking the law every night.”
He bought his own decibel meter, Reagan continued. On multiple occasions, he said, “I will measure decibel levels almost twice the legal limit. We have called the [Sheriff’s Office] dozens of times.”
Further, Reagan explained that the area where the club is situated is a mix of residential and commercial establishments. “The people who own businesses must learn to live in a way that is not offensive and does not take our quality of life away,” he told Medred.
A second Sea Crest owner, Diane Levoy, added, “I wholeheartedly agree with Joe.”
Both she and renters of her unit, she said, had called the Crescent Club on numerous occasions to ask that the music volume be lowered.
“We look at this as a family-friendly area,” Levoy continued.
Not only is the music a problem, she told Medred, but she has seen people sleeping in cars in her parking space at the condominium complex, after they have left the Crescent Club. On other occasions, she added, inebriated customers of the business have rung her doorbell late at night — as a prank, she indicated — and then run away when she went to the door.
She also has had renters complain to her in writing about the Crescent Club, Levoy said.
Extending the live performance hours, she pointed out, is “just asking for more trouble.”
She further expressed concern that if the Crescent Club wins the Special Exception, that will set a precedent for other businesses in the area to seek the same privilege.
Several people commented on the live music offered at Captain Curt’s Sniki Tiki Bar, which stands at 1204 Old Stickney Point Road, near the Crescent Club.
One of those speakers, Brian Pitera, owner of a unit at The Crescent Siesta Key condominium complex (6512 Midnight Pass Road), told Medred that the Sniki Tiki used to feature what Pitera described as live “Margaritaville music” until 10 p.m. However, he continued, since the live performances at the Crescent Club began, the volume of the Sniki Tiki music also has increased, “and it’s now become the battle of the bands.”
Yet another owner of a Sea Crest unit, Al van Cleve, told Medred that he had had renters lodge complaints with him, as well. “I think … allowing [the live music] to go later,” he said, “would be a detriment for most involved.”
Miotti also concurred with Levoy that if the Crescent Club wins the Special Exception, other businesses will make the same request. And the Crescent Club, she pointed out, “always seems to get their way.”
Siesta residents in years past have decried County Commission votes in favor of applications that Kompothecras has had agents submit on his behalf. Commission votes of approval have come even with residents filling the Commission Chambers in downtown Sarasota, strongly opposed to his plans. Among those was a decision the board made in 2018 to allow for shorter street setbacks for construction under specific circumstances.
Further, Miotti said, “At some point, I suspect that the money you’re going to make by having bigger crowds [at the club] is going to justify paying [Sound Pollution Ordinance violation] penalties.” Yet, Miotti stressed, “This is not party city. This is not Fort Myers [before Hurricane Ian struck in September 2022]. This is a residential community, as well.”
Noise violation fines and more ire
Robert Luckner, treasurer of the Siesta Key Association (SKA), a nonprofit organization dating to 1948 that advocates for residents, noted a recent $4,000 Code Enforcement fine for the Crescent Club in response to repeated Sound Pollution Ordinance violations. That ended up being reduced to $1,000, Luckner said.
Yet, to win approval of a Special Exception petition, Luckner continued, county regulations require that an applicant prove that the request will not be “detrimental to the order, comfort or convenience of the neighborhood.”
If the club is able to win the approval, Medred responded, and it violates the Sound Pollution Ordinance, the County Commission can revoke the Special Exception.
When Luckner asked whether the Special Exception would remain with the property in perpetuity otherwise, Medred replied that it would.
“SKA will oppose this when you go in front of the Planning Commission,” Luckner said.
(After county staff has deemed the application complete, it will be scheduled for a Planning Commission hearing and then a County Commission hearing.)
Medred also emphasized that most of the performances at the Crescent Club entail one or two musicians. Occasionally, he added, three people are in a group.
However, Reagan of Sea Crest called Medred’s statement “factually untrue,” adding, “They have had bands of five people,” with some of the performers playing horns.
“Has that been recent?” Medred asked.
“That was the case in January, February and March” of this year, Reagan replied, as he and his wife spent those months at Sea Crest.
“That’s contrary to what was conveyed to me,” Medred said.
Justin Ego, manager of the House of the Sun condominium complex, located next to Sea Crest, at 6518 Midnight Pass Road, pointed out that he has handled many complaints about the Crescent Club that have been lodged by persons renting units for vacations.
He has used a noise meter to check the decibel levels, Ego told Medred. Extending the hours for live performances, Ego continued, “really isn’t conducive to our guests and owners.”
Another man, who said he and his wife own units in both Crescent Siesta Key and House of the Sun, invited Medred to spend a night in one of those units “and try to get some sleep” as time ticks on to 11:30 p.m. That is not possible, the man emphasized. “The noise is being heard all the way back at the Gulf.”
Miotti pointed out that the real problem is the amplifiers and speakers at the club. “Frequently, when you’re in there,” she said, “it’s so loud, you can’t carry on a conversation. You can’t basically stand it in there.”
Finally, Neal Schleifer, vice president of the Siesta Key Condominium Council and resident of a condominium complex on Peacock Road, which is east of the Crescent Club, had a different question for Medred. Would he recommend to Kompothecras that the application for the Special Exception be withdrawn, Schleifer asked, based on all of the complaints aired that night?
“I will let the owners know what you said,” Medred replied. They also will be able to listen to the recording of the workshop, he added.