SoHo bar's plan for 'expansion' denied by City Council

- A SoHo bar is taking heat from neighbors and members of Tampa City Council. Yard of Ale, located on S. Howard Ave., went before the city council Thursday to request permission to more than double its occupancy rate from 120 to 250 people.

The bar's owner, Barry O'Conner, also revealed it had been serving up to 250 people since 2013 when the Fire Marshal's Office evaluated the bar and stated it was capable of serving up that amount of customers.

Council members were outraged to learn the bar had ignored the original occupancy rate of 120 people, the number they had approved in 2010 when they granted Yard of Ale its license.

"Is this something that happens, I've never heard of this happening before?" exclaimed Tampa Council member Harry Cohen.

O'Conner says it's all a mix-up that was out of his control and caused by miscommunication between the council and the fire marshal.

"Combine the two and make them both legal," said O'Conner, "but we still have the fire marshal's calculation, a city employee calculation, that was given to us, and now it's wrong. I don't understand."

SoHo residents at Thursday's meeting were glad to see the city council denied the bar's request to expand its occupancy rate.

"Our city needs to catch up with itself. It has grown to a point where maybe we need to slow down," said Annaliese Meier.

City officials stated the fire marshal can provide an occupancy rate based on health and safety standards, but in this case the council had already approved an occupancy rate the bar should have respected in order to stay in business.

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