St. Pete bar facing fines for trying to improve their sidewalk

The Thirsty First Lounge faces a $300 fine
Posted at 6:01 PM, Jun 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-23 18:01:56-04

A new bar in St. Pete is facing fines for trying to improve their look.

The Thirsty First Lounge on 1st Avenue North spruced up their sidewalk exterior, turning a gross-looking bush into an inviting patio space.

The changes changes turned out to be just the trick for the new bar, attracting crowds where people felt comfortable hanging out.

"You can sit here and you can relax," demonstrates owner Greg Mikurak. "We planted flowers inside here. There's actually perennials."

The patio is made of reclaimed wood, bamboo and some gravel, replacing what Mikurak says was a mess.

"The bushes were where homeless people came and peed, defecated. The sprinklers were all broken. Cigarettes bottles broken, everything. It was just ugly," Mikurak tells ABC Action News.

The problem, it turns out, is the patio isn't up to code, and says he was given an ultimatum.

"The city doesn't want to come to a compromise," says Mikurak. "You did this, we don't like it, get rid of it. We're going to fine you $500 dollars every day."

Code Enforcement tells ABC Action News that Mikurak actually has 10 days or else faces a $300 dollar fine, and there's an appeals process after that.

St. Pete's Code Compliance director, Robert Gerdes, tells ABC Action News that Mikurak should have arranged to meet with a city engineer first, and would likely have needed to get a "sidewalk cafe permit" before making any surface or what's called "right of way" changes.

Mikurak says he's going to keep things the way they are now at least through the weekend, but wishes thecity would work with him to come to a compromise.

He feels St. Pete isn't as business-friendly as it claims to be.

"It doesn't make sense to say, just get rid of it, we want it back to the bushes," he says.