The Duval County Planning Commission voted 7-0 on May 6 to grant a zoning waiver and exception to serve alcohol and allow outdoor seating with a bar and TVs at the Time Out Sports Grill Mandarin offered at 10140 San Jose Blvd.
“This is a big win for Time Out, a big win for the community and for the Mandarin region,” said owner Matt Harris, who requested the zoning exception and the waiver.
The sports restaurant is planned in the old building of the Village Inn which closed in 2016. Harris will rent the structure.
It is located at a restricted distance from four places of worship and a school. Several restaurants within a mile of this location have received similar approval for alcohol.
The building is currently zoned to allow a restaurant that serves beer and wine, but to serve all liquor requires additional approvals.
The restaurant adjoins an area on Haley Road.
Many of the area’s residents are Orthodox Jews who do not drive or use electricity on the Sabbath. This includes crossing signals.
Neighbors feared that a sports restaurant would attract too many customers who could endanger pedestrians along Haley Road.
Harris, owner of the Time Out Sports Grill at 13799 Beach Blvd. near Hodges Boulevard, agreed to hire a brigadier at his own expense on Friday nights and major holidays to help observant Jews cross San Jose Boulevard to the synagogue.
The commission postponed the zoning changes until the April 22 meeting so Harris could address community concerns.
At the start of yesterday’s meeting, Rogers Towers attorney Wyman Duggan listed the concessions Harris was prepared to make:
• The proposed patio would have been moved from Haley Road to the center of the building facing San Jose Boulevard.
• A 6 foot wood or vinyl fence would be built along Haley Road next to the sidewalk and built on the restaurant side of the fence.
• The proposed outer bar would have been deleted.
• There would be no outdoor televisions.
• The planned 45 patio seats would have been reduced to two or three picnic tables.
• Where legal, Harris would pay for any parking signs placed in the neighborhood.
• A charity basketball tournament project that was to take place in the restaurant parking lot would be removed from the plan.
Ten friends and family spoke on Harris’ behalf, telling the commission that he is Jewish, grew up Mandarin, and is a man of good character, respectful of the neighborhood.
Ten others, half as many who spoke out against his plan at the first meeting, expressed their opposition.
The main argument was the desire for a wall rather than a fence and their demand for a permanent closure of the entrance to the restaurant on Haley Road.
The subdivision is closed without a crossing street. Residents did not want patrons leaving the restaurant to turn onto Haley Road and enter the housing estate in the hopes of taking a suspected shortcut to avoid traffic on San Jose Boulevard.
After public comment, the commissioners discussed Harris ‘concessions and the neighbors’ wishes.
The closure of the entrance to the Haley Road restaurant would have posed safety concerns for emergency vehicles. Commission member Daniel Blanchard also noted that customers traveling north on San Jose Boulevard would likely turn onto Haley Road thinking there was an entrance there and end up having to walk through the neighborhood to return to the San Jose Boulevard to reach the restaurant.
The committee passed a 7-0 amendment to have Harris erect a sign telling customers that Haley Road ends with a dead end and that no right turns are allowed to exit the parking lot. This must meet the review of the city’s road safety ordinance.
Another unanimously passed amendment calls for additional fencing and landscaping in the rear parking lot to further separate the restaurant from Haley Road.
Blanchard proposed an amendment which was also passed unanimously to return the seats, allowing 45 seats, a bar and televisions.
The reasoning was that during the COVID pandemic, the commission allowed more exceptions for outdoor dining and Harris’s original proposal looked a lot like those requests.
Harris said he will meet with his lawyers and contractors to discuss the new changes to outdoor dining.
On April 22, before the request was deferred, Harris was willing to remove the outdoor dining item. He welcomed the additional outdoor seating, but wasn’t sure the bar and TVs would return to the final site plan.
“Just because we won today doesn’t mean we’re not going to take care of our neighbors,” Harris said.