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Sanibel Catering Company receives conditional use permit approval

By Staff | Jul 27, 2016


This article, published in the July 27 edition of the Island Reporter, states: “Sanibel Catering Company is defined as a separate commercial unit because it is under separate ownership.” This is legal terminology for the permit required by the city. “Separate ownership” does not mean the business has changed hands. The catering company is still owned by Bailey’s. The “separate business unit” designation has no impact on the ownership of the businesses.

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The City of Sanibel Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for Sanibel Catering Company, a business that has been operated through the Bailey’s General Store for many years.

City of Sanibel Planning Department Senior Planner Roy Gibson said although the 560 square foot space is located inside the deli portion of the Bailey’s General Store, Sanibel Catering Company is defined as a separate commercial unit because it is under separate ownership. He said the use involves food and beverage preparation and process, which also requires conditional use approval.

“We are supporting this application with subject to 10 conditions that are included in the staff report,” Gibson said.

He said the business owner applied for an application for a business tax receipt to obtain city approval for the Sanibel Catering Company and with that the applicant was put on notice.

“Before we can approve this as a separate business, the Sanibel Catering Company, they would have to seek approval and receive conditional use approval for that business entity,” Gibson said. “If they would have maintained the operation as they have been as part of the general store and deli operation than they would not have been required to obtain conditional use approval, or a separate tax receipt. That separate business what triggered the separate use approval.”

Richard Johnson, with Bailey’s General Store, said they have been catering through Bailey’s General Store’s kitchen for many years, long before he arrived 12 years ago.

“What transpired was as we saw the business environment, in regards to alcohol, change, we went forward to secure the necessary licensing permitting, so our catering events would be properly equipped, educated and licensed to serve mainly beer and wine at events that we do,” he said.

Johnson said Bailey’s General Store holds a license for the sale of packaged products of beer and wine.

“When we started that process, quite innocently, (we) went in and they said you can’t have that type of catering license and your beverage sales license at the same time with the same company,” he said. “The people of Tobacco, Alcohol and Firearms in Downtown Fort Myers were very helpful and we worked our way through that. They said it must be a separate company, so I weighed the decision there to make that call.”

Johnson said he decided to form a separate company with the same ownership and staff, with the only exception, a different name. He said he got the necessary insurance and license in place and is now inspected by the Department of Agriculture and DEPR.

“It was discovered that we didn’t have a business tax receipt,” Johnson said. “We filed for a BTR and that triggered that there is no conditional use. I said well this is an existing use that we have been doing for probably before the City of Sanibel was established and I thought everything was fine.”

He said with the 10 conditions listed it will cost him a significant amount of money, but that is what is required of the land development code and he does believe the land development code keeps Sanibel, Sanibel.

“I don’t think there is anything there that we can’t manage to get through,” Johnson said of the conditions. “The waste water requirement is one that I draw question to because I recognize that there will be some additional expense with regards to that and nothing has changed. We are doing the exact same thing we have always done.”

The conditional use states that “a wastewater service availability agreement shall be obtained, and any fee for additional sewer service capacity shall be paid.”

Commissioner Jason Maughan said as far as he can see there will be no change to the layout of the building or operations, which Gibson said was correct.

“I have to actually say I thought they already did this,” he said.

Chairman Phillip Marks said when he does site visits to restaurants, or to any food preparation area his real focus is on sanitation and the general cleanliness.

“I was extremely impressed. They have been doing this both as a deli and a catering business and it was spotless,” he said.

Commissioner Holly Smith asked Gibson if they are going to have to look at other businesses that may be doing offsite delivery and catering, or does it only applies to beer and wine service. She asked if this is going to tip the hat of other small businesses that are going to have to come forward and go through the same process.

“At this time we don’t know of any other uses, or any other businesses looking to do this type of business, or creating a separate business from the uses that they already have that are approved or lawfully existing,” Gibson said.

Johnson said the real trigger that activated the whole Pandora box was the alcohol permit and the requirement of the ATF that it be under a separate business.

“Believe it or not, but the catering company barely breaks even,” he said. “I use that as one of my ways to give back to the community. We do a lot of non for profit events and we do that at a very heavily discounted rate and sometimes pro bono.”