Stalled construction site at Jack's Bar irks some business owners, city officials


Jack's Bar and Grill on South Main Street in downtown Gainesville is shown on Tuesday.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 4:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 24, 2014 at 4:12 p.m.

It's been about two years since construction stalled on an outdoor beer garden at Jack's Bar in downtown Gainesville.

Chain-link, temporary construction fencing lined by a green screen still runs along the sidewalk on Southeast First Avenue. Before Wednesday, black trash bags and empty beer boxes were piled on the dirt lot. Wood boards, pallets, construction debris and a rusted pipe are some of the remnants of the building project still scattered in areas around the property. A half-finished outdoor wood deck stands against the building.

This month, the condition of the property led to a code enforcement case against the business. An April 3 notice of violation cited a "large amount of trash and debris, including some construction debris" and the fact that a temporary construction fence still stood on a site with an expired building permit.

The permit for the remodeling and expansion to add an outdoor bar area expired in August 2012. The code enforcement notice said the violations had to be cleared up by April 23 or the case would go to the Code Enforcement Board. If that board found the business in violation, it might face daily fines of $500.

On Wednesday, the pile of garbage bags and beer boxes were removed from the property. The temporary fencing, which code enforcement officers said had to be removed, still stood, and construction debris was piled or stacked against the building.

An employee of the business declined to comment.

Already at a standstill, the construction of the outdoor beer garden fell into further uncertainty in March 2013, when the owner of Jack's Bar, William Chick, died from cancer. Chick's estate is currently in probate.

The unfinished construction project at the highly visible intersection of South Main Street and southeast First Avenue has irked some downtown business owners and city commissioners.

Last week, downtown business and property owner Billy Scheel sent the City Commission an email expressing concerns about the "dilapidated fence" and the garbage on site and asking how long the city was going to allow for the completion of the "half-finished" construction work.

"It's an eyesore," Scheel said in a phone interview Thursday. "They need to do something or tear that down."

In separate email responses, City Commissioners Lauren Poe and Thomas Hawkins told Scheel they shared his frustration and asked City Manager Russ Blackburn for an update on what the city was doing to address the condition of the site now that construction has been at a standstill for an extended stretch.

"Also, the length of time that property has been an abandoned construction site has gone beyond outrageous," Hawkins wrote in an email to Blackburn. "Can you schedule a City Commission discussion item for an upcoming meeting and present (1) how this problem has been able to fester for the amount of time it has and (2) what policy actions the City Commission could take to enable you to remedy this problem?"

Adam Bass, a real estate agent downtown and former member of the Downtown Community Redevelopment Area, said the abandoned construction site "doesn't look good in downtown."

"They need to do something," Bass said. "Get something done. That way people don't see a chain-link fence and trash piled on a dirt lot."

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