Dispute among tenants sidelines UF Plaza block party
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 6:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 at 6:41 p.m.
The gameday block party is off in the parking lot at UF Plaza due to a dispute among tenants.
After three years of setting up tents in the parking lot, the businesses in the plaza at Northwest 17th Street and University Avenue got a letter from the property manager about 10 days ago saying one business no longer wanted to shut down the parking lot for the outside sales.
“That's considered a common area,” said Libby Kesselring, manager of The Copper Monkey and mother of owner Rob Zeller. “Everybody had to agree to block it off and use it for tailgating as we have for the last three years.”
Designer Greens, which other owners said participated in the outside sales in the past, was the holdout this year. Owner Steven Kay emailed a photo of a past event showing a crowded parking lot and an orange safety fence blocking the sidewalk leading to his store.
“Gameday activities in the UF Plaza parking lot block access to the common area sidewalk that leads to Designer Greens,” he wrote.
He wrote that the sidewalk was blocked because the state requires businesses to partition outdoor alcohol sales within a contiguous space with a barrier that extends to the business.
Kesselring said the block party was the property manager's idea as a way to boost sales following the slow summer season. The Copper Monkey bought a 20- by 30-foot tent that covered four parking spaces, an outside grill, tables and chairs and set up two TVs, she said. For bigger games, businesses brought in live bands or DJs.
“We have customers wanting to know what time our tent opens,” she said. “We have to give them the bad news. It's a downer for us, that's for sure.”
The other businesses with outside sales included Pita Pit, Relish, Flaco's and Munchies 420 Cafe.
Since last football season, Munchies' owners closed the restaurant and opened The Rowdy Reptile in its place. They also own Fat Daddy's. Co-owner Ken Chester said the tents boosted their sales about 10 percent and provided five additional jobs. He guessed that all of the plaza's businesses brought in 15 to 30 additional workers.
Chester said gameday business can mean the difference between profits and losses for some businesses after the summer doldrums. Now he is concerned that people looking for an outdoor establishment will go somewhere else.
“There's only a couple days a year that all of these retailers look forward to as revenue producers and he has taken it upon himself to eliminate our ability to be in the parking lot,'' he said.
Kay says he has no objection to the party, only to the fencing that hurts his business.