When it comes to watering holes on Wilton Drive, some bar and restaurant owners think there’s too much of a good thing.
On Wilton Drive, some business owners say too many bars have resulted in too little profit.
“There’s too many bars,” said Nick Berry, co-owner of Rumors Bar & Grill and Courtyard Café. “The market’s diluted with bars. Other areas don’t have this problem.”
That oversaturation of bars, said Berry, who also serves as chair of the Wilton Manors Economic Development Task Force, has forced a lot of owners to come up with a lot of specials or virtual non-stop happy hours which cut deep into profits. “Everyone’s just giving everything away.”
But the oversaturation isn’t just Berry’s opinion. It’s one shared by other business owners and the city’s own report.
Page 18 of the 2016-2021 Economic Development Strategic Plan, released in December, states that there is too much supply provided by “Foodservice and Drinking Places.” In the report, consumer demand for those services is $31,504,413 per year but the supply is $78,622,203.
To solve the problem, Berry said he wants the city commission to implement some kind of separation requirement on the distance between bars. Existing bars, said Berry, should be grandfathered in. But, if that bar closes, it should be subject to the distance regulations. Berry hopes that the separation requirement might force building owners to find other types of businesses to rent to.
Paul Hugo, who co-owns EAT and The Venue, agrees with Berry and said that some bars that come in don’t supply enough parking for themselves and that the city needs to come up with more realistic parking requirements. “[Bars with not enough parking] put a burden on everyone who supplies [enough] parking. A bar is probably the highest and most dense use of parking.”
One bar owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said he’d like to see a limitation on the same types of restaurants as well, but he’s not sure if proximity should be the limiting factor. “It’s hurt bar sales. We are at max saturation . . . businesses of all types. How many sushi places do you need within a quarter mile?”
Other business owners also want to see more diversity.
“We definitely need more. The last thing we need is more bars. The problem is the city keeps allowing bars,” said Caleb Ben-Avram, co-owner of Naked Grape Wine Bar and Tapas.
Ray Delgado and Todd Bowe, owners of Novel Tea, would like to see more women business owners and more retail shops. “A rainbow of different things,” said Delgado.
“I don’t want Wilton Drive to be known as Bourbon Street,” said Bowe.
All these opinions from business owners are nothing new though.
For years, city officials, residents, and business owners have wanted to see more retail businesses come to Wilton Drive and generate more daytime traffic.
The city’s latest effort to get more retail came when city commissioners directed city staff to implement the Economic Development Strategic Plan at their May 9 meeting. One of the objectives is to “continue to promote/support the development of increased restaurants and retail businesses.”
Asked if the city would possibly enact some kind of separation requirement, Assistant City Manager Pamela Landi said city staff was waiting for the current legislative session in Tallahassee to finish. She said city staff would have a “longer conversation with the commission” about the possible separation in the near future.