TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - A judge ruled Thursday operators of the historic Stovall House on Bayshore Boulevard in Tampa are allowed to sell alcohol once the property is converted into a private social club, setting in motion the possibility for further litigation.
The ruling has further ticked off neighbors, who have tried at every turn to block the project. But it’s not over yet.
Lawyers for the Keep Bayshore Beautiful group say they will likely appeal to a higher court. They insist any reasonable person can see this neighborhood is no place to sell booze.
The Stovall House is an 8,000-square-foot mansion surrounded by gardens, overlooking Tampa Bay. Soon, the property will have an 80-space parking lot, a guesthouse, a recreation room, and a bar.
"You would think the city wants to protect their citizens. Instead, it feels like the city is trying to protect the special interest,” said Kirk Kumagai with Keep Bayshore Beautiful. "Think about what liquor does, people drink, they don't make the best decisions."
He’s worried the serene streets around the Stovall will become raucous.
Owner Blake Casper, of Oxford Exchange, is turning it into a members-only social club. Business meals, guest speakers, yoga studios, and grassy hangouts will all be available to its members.
Casper argues the 1909 mansion he bought two years ago will be a more entrenched community asset. After first convincing city council to re-zone the property, he has seen the project through several court hearings. He promises the Stovall House will be a good and safe neighbor.
"Having gone through this, to me, puts to bed a lot of the questions, and still neighbors are still against, and we hope to win them over one day," Casper said.
The house owned by Keep Bayshore Beautiful lawyer Robert Soriano happens to abut the Stovall property. He insists there are holes in the judge’s decision because it partly relies on limitations on sales set in place by Casper himself.
"The law says you cannot put that kind of enterprise here," Soriano said.
Casper has pledged to limit noise, hours for outside alcohol sales, and the number of outdoor parties to four a year.