Gate gas station debate in Atlantic Beach shifts to hours, alcohol sales

Atlantic Beach residents complained Monday night during the City Commission meeting about the hours of the proposed Gate gas station on Atlantic Boulevard and whether it should sell alcohol.

The debate surfaced after City Attorney Brenna Durden offered the commission a more detailed picture of hours of operation of the controversial Gate station on 501 Atlantic Blvd.

During the commission’s Oct. 10 meeting, Durden shared a Sept. 29 letter Gate Petroleum Attorney T.R. Hainline, Jr. sent to former Chief of Police Michael Deal. In the letter, Hainline wrote the gas station will operate 24 hours, with its coolers for beer and wine closed between the hours of 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. Those hours follow Atlantic Beach Ordinance Section 3-2, which dictates when businesses with an alcohol license cannot sell alcoholic beverages.

Durden told the commission Gate Petroleum representatives met with Deal, City Manager Nelson Van Liere and other members of the Atlantic Beach Police Department to discuss appropriate hours for the gas station.

“They recognized that there’s a number of facilities here in Atlantic Beach, on Mayport Road and even on Atlantic Boulevard that are open on hours that either extend past 2 a.m. or are earlier than 7 a.m.” said Durden. “Although they don’t sell beer and wine during those hours, they are in fact open. As a result, Chief Deal looked at the letter, considered the letter and made a determination that it was appropriate for him to sign it.”

Atlantic Beach resident and member of Atlantic Beach Cares Betsy Cosgrove disagreed with the hours, and told the commission it failed to look at city ordinance section 3-4. That section says businesses within commercial general zoning district abutting Atlantic Boulevard or Mayport Road or within the central business district of Atlantic Beach and businesses already open and hold a valid alcoholic beverage license as of May 10, 2004, can sell alcohol to be consumed outside of the business.

Cosgrove said that according to that ordinance the Gate gas station should not be permitted to sell alcohol. She interprets the ordinance to only apply to land or businesses already licensed to sell alcohol, and not new businesses.

Commissioners Stinson and Hill asked Durden about ordinance 3-4. She said that as long as the business is located in areas designated by the ordinance and has a license, it is allowed to sell alcohol. The Gate gas station location is in the appropriate area and zoning-commercial general. she said.

Durden further explained the second criteria in the ordinance applied to Atlantic Beach businesses that were already in operation with an alcohol license outside of the allowed areas at the time. It is to ensure that those businesses were not restricted from selling alcohol if the ordinance passed.

Misty Skipper, vice president of marketing, communications and government affairs of Gate, said that the company has not yet applied for an alcohol license for that location.

Cosgrove and other members of Atlantic Beach Cares, the group that opposed the gas station, is appalled by the operating hours. They want to be treated the same as other communities by Gate gas stations, and that the gas station should either be open 24 hours without alcohol sales or sell alcohol and lose 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

“Which are the same operating hours as the store they have closest to a community in Ponte Vedra,” said Cosgrove. “All I’m asking is that we get the same courtesy from Gate in our neighborhood as he’s given to his community in Ponte Vedra for the same type of store.”

Atlantic Beach Cares member Susanne Barker agreed. She said residents are still uneasy about the station open 24/7 because they’re afraid that it would attract drunks and loitering once the local bars close.

Cosgrove sent messages to eachcity commissioners and Mayor Mitch Reeves on Tuesday morning voicing her opinion against the station’s hours. She said she already met with the mayor and commission in July to go over alcohol ordinances in an attempt to get ahead of the issue of operating hours with alcohol sales.

Tiffanie Reynolds: (904) 359-4450

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