OKEECHOBEE – At their May 12 meeting, the Okeechobee County Commission approved a change in zoning for a State Road 78 property to allow a bar with food service.
The subject property is about 4.8 acres in area. It is on the north/west side of State Road 78 West, approximately three-quarters of a mile from the county line at the Kissimmee River. The property is currently vacant and was zoned Agriculture. James and Dina Lancaster, the applicants also own the house on the parcel to the south that fronts State Road 78 West.
Betty Harris said she plans to move her current business, which she has operated for 22 years, to this site.
“Right now, I serve beer and wine,” she explained. “I always wanted to serve food.”
The applicant plans to build a 2,400 square-foot bar on the property. A special exception for the on-premises consumption of beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages was granted by the Board of Adjustments and Appeals subject to several conditions.
Harris said her clientele is an older group, and will not be loud.
“My bar is always closed by 10 p.m.,” she said. “You can check with the sheriff’s office."
She said the only time the sheriff’s office was called to her bar in the past 22 years was about a break-in.
“I am very proud of what we have done for 22 years. I would like to continue to do it,” she said.
“Our music will be done by 9 p.m.,” she said. “Right now, it sits right in a mobile home park. That’s where it’s been for 22 years, and I don’t get complaints from the residents there.”
The commission received one letter from a neighboring property owner, Jerry James, in opposition to the zoning change.
“My wife and I have been traveling to Okeechobee to winter for over 20 years. Originally we pulled a camper and stayed in campgrounds around Okeechobee for months at a time,” he wrote. “We decided to invest in more of a permanent arrangement so we purchased our home located at 9351 State Rd 78 West in Okeechobee. We worked very hard to clean up the property and remodel the home to make it more comfortable for us and our family. This is where we choose to have our kids, eight grand kids and six great grandkids gather with us for vacation and family time. We feel that our grand and great-grand kids should be able to play outside in our backyard without having to worry about the patrons of an establishment such as a bar be in close proximity to our home. The proposed bar would be less than 300 feet from our home. We already have the Iron Eagle bar closer than we like, only a little over 400 feet from our home. We are strongly against the proposed lot being rezoned to allow another bar type establishment. We are all for growth in the community, but we feel that a bar is not the type of growth needed in this community. We feel that it will not help the surrounding community or the value of the surrounding properties.”