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Inspection Finds Seating-Capacity Violations at Captain’s BBQ at Bing’s, Raising New Questions

| March 14, 2019

Captain's BBQ at Bing's Landing. (© FlaglerLive)

Captain’s BBQ at Bing’s Landing. (© FlaglerLive)

Two weeks ago the state Division of Hotels and Restaurants conducted an inspection at Captain’s BBQ at Bing’s Landing, the county park. It did not go well. Captain’s, operating there since 2011, is at the center of a controversy over its proposal to expand and move the restaurant, initially to a more central location in the park, and now possibly to a less prominent location, closer to the Intracoastal.

The inspection found four violations, including two high priority violations, what the division defines as “those which could contribute directly to a foodborne illness or injury,” though the inspection report also noted that while the violations require further review, they are “not an immediate threat to the public.”

One of the high-priority violations was seating as it relates to use of the facility and its impact on the septic system. “The maximum number of seats has been exceeded,” the inspection found, with approximately 26 seats inside and 92 in the screened-in enclosure, “for a total of 118 seats on site. Establishment licensed for 60 seats.” One of the “basic” violations is related to the same issue: “Establishment increased seating without providing written approval from the local fire authority and wastewater provider. Approval of the septic tank system limits the establishment to a maximum number of seats.”

The second high-priority violation was food cooled at 46 degrees instead of 41 or below, and the fourth violation, a “basic” one, was corrected during the inspection.

The division regularly inspects Captain’s as it does other restaurants. Captain’s was inspected four times in 2018, according to the division’s records, the first time on May 11, when a similar high-priority issue was found regarding food kept at temperatures greater than permissible. The facility was also warned about three other minor, hygiene-related violations. The restaurant was inspected twice more within a week of that initial inspection, and passed both times, and passed again with a subsequent inspection last November, but for a minor violation that was immediately corrected.

The seating discrepancy caught the attention of the Hammock Community Association, the local non-profit that’s taken a hard line against Captain’s expansion, holding weekly protests and leading a legal challenge to Flagler County government’s amended lease with Captain’s which would allow for the new facility. That lease would have Captain’s build a new facility at its own expense, then turn ownership over to the county while continuing to assume all costs related to maintaining and insuring the building. Captain’s would also pay $1,000-a-month rent for the first five years, with no provision for any profit sharing with the county.

Writing of the discrepancy, the association’s Dennis Clark raised questions about permitted seating under the state’s rules and the current lease in place, which allows for up to 100 seats, questioning as well whether the current lease shouldn’t be revised to reflect state rules. The expanded restaurant would allow for 150 seats, but that amended lease is in limbo, pending resolution of the association’s administrative appeal.

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“The items in question were previously approved by the County, including the seating capacity, and no concerns were raised at the time by staff or administration,” Jay Livingston, the restaurant’s attorney, said on March 10. “Most of the open questions need to be analyzed and commented on by the County and the health department.” (Livingston had written a letter to the county attorney in July 2016 confirming “that the seating capacity is 100.”)

County Administrator Jerry Cameron, for his part, “has determined that the County will be issuing a notice to cure the findings of the inspection concerning number of seats, including the septic tank/drainfield issues cited in the inspection,” County Attorney Al Hadeed wrote in an email. But, he noted, the “Division of Hotels and Restaurants does not involve the County in its inspections. The County has no jurisdiction over such inspections by this state agency. Any questions as to why the Division took or failed to take action are not within the County’s knowledge. (Update: The county’s interim manager, Jerry Cameron, issued the letter to cure on March 15, requiring Captain’s to comply with “an immediate reduction to 100 seats until the issues concerning the septic capacity are addressed and cured.”)

On March 14, Livingston said steps were under way to ensure that Captain’s “will be able to reach the 100 seats they approved in the lease but what the capacity will ultimately allow has not been finalized.” Livingston added: “Based on my discussion with the Health Department, the 60 seats permitted in the original permit from 1991 are equivalent to 80 seats today due to changes in the regulations. Whether those changes as applied to other uses in the park that are part of the operational permit will allow an increase to 100 seats is what is being determined.”

The county’s March 15 letter addressed the 60-80 discrepancy this way: “With regard to prior approval of the septic tank system for only 60 seats, we understand that the rated capacity of the present system for ‘single service seats’ per the Health Department is 80 seats. However, this seating capacity is not reflected in a permit modification from the Health Department.”

The original discrepancy left Clark perplexed as to why the county or the restaurant did not check the septic capacity before the 2016 amendment to the lease provided for 100 seats. “The questions of violating the lease with 118 seats and/or revising the lease to meet the permitted seating capacity of 60 seem like valid questions to me and I’m glad that the County is taking action,” Clark said. But he had further concerns about the implications of expanding the restaurant.

The expansion would hinge in part on the park’s infrastructure’s ability to handle added capacity. The association is raising questions about the new lease placing seating at 150, and the effects that would have on parking and the septic system. But the county is working toward connecting a temporary sewer connection to the Hammock Dunes Community Development District “to promote the health of the land and waterways associated with the park and to benefit the surrounding greenways,” in Hadeed’s words. “The cost is in the $90,000 to $100,000 estimated range. The County Administrator is recommending to the Board of County Commissioners that Captains would have to pay its proportionate share of the connection and usage charges should its facility be rebuilt in another location on the park property. The County has not made any decision to pay for infrastructure related to Captains. The Board by its vote rescinded the proposed lease of November 2018. Captains is still under the 2011 lease as subsequently amended.”

“Captain’s may now be required to pay its proportional share, but that’s not what was stated in the last lease,” Clark said.

The county has scheduled a workshop on Captain’s on April 3 at 8 a.m.

31 Responses for “Inspection Finds Seating-Capacity Violations at Captain’s BBQ at Bing’s, Raising New Questions”

  1. Dave says:

    Get Captains BBQ out! They have violated their lease and scammed the Flagler County Public enough! Now they are serving poison food! That is disgusting that they would keep their chicken raw and too warm and it grows bacteria that makes you sick!! Keep these jerks out of our parks!!

  2. Lin says:

    Contracts between 2 parties – a meeting of the minds wherein each gets something they want or need.

    I know what Captains is getting— our County waterfront land for minimal rent as setting for their restaurant which equates to profit. So now they are violating the lease with exceeding occupancy regulations putting further stress on an inadequate sewer system.

    I don’t have a clue what the County taxpayers are getting out of this since we don’t get a share of the profits and are on the hook for more costs whether they stay in present location or grow and take up more of our unspoiled old Florida park with another sweetheart lease. The bait shop/snack bar fit in more with the character of the Park.

    I wonder how profitable Captains would be if they had to compete with their neighborng restaurants paying real market rents without relationships to County politicians. Unfair, now unsafe too.

  3. thomas says:

    Lordie Lordie.
    Why do the politicians gang up on successful small businesses. If you want to find violations, check out City Hall and the County Building. Where were these folks when the county bought the decrepit old hospital and forced the FCSO to occupy it.

  4. susquach says:

    Another of Craig and companies follies to screw over the public. Stick to the original lease with DOH giving a current rating of capacity. Too many other places Captains can move to. Leave the park as is.

  5. Eileen Araujo says:

    Amazing how much time and effort is going into this restaurant. Is this much leniency shown for other local restaurants from the division of Hotel & Restaurants? Where’s the health dept. and code enforcement? Someone is very lucky…..

  6. Paul C Pritchard says:

    Why is a government agency acting like a landlord, and an incompetent one at that?

  7. Kathielee says:

    Eileen that’s the health department for the restaurants and to the leniency of other restaurants in Flagler county ( Yes ) most definitely !! I worked in a place that always received horrible inspections (16 and 18 ) at one time and they never got shut down . I had to quit that job . The owners never cared about the restaurant only the money ..

  8. Concerned Citizen says:

    Hmm unproperly stored food and violations hygeine ? No wonder I have felt ill the last 2 times eating there.

    Why is this resturaunt allowed to violate it’s lease? If it was anywhere else in Flagler County Code Enforcement would be all over it. Seating violations? Septic issues? If it were you or I we would be closed down. I guess it’s easy to avoid when you line certain Commisioners and lawyers pockets. With Greg Hansen and Al Hadeed as protectors Captains doesn’t have to follow the law.

    i’m surprised the state got involved although it’s about time.

  9. Chuck says:

    Hmmmm….Makes me wonder…..Doesn’t the Fire Marshal conduct annual inspections to ensure that fire code has not been violated including occupant load and means/distance to egress? I’m sure they must look at fire suppression systems to ensure they are adequate for the cooking area and that properly maintained fire suppression tanks and fire extinguishers are in good working order and properly located…? Along with clear exit markings with backup emergency battery lights? Not to mention clear exhaust hoods and filters?……

  10. mark101 says:

    “increased seating without providing written approval from the local fire authority and wastewater provider.”, They would have fined a normal business that’s not associated with the County and made them close off any seating that is above the requirement to support the present septic system..

    Again this business and the county HAD TO KNOW that their new seating addition was not in compliance,.

  11. Sean Peckham says:

    Again look a little deeper the reason Captains gets so many Privileges is the relationship between the owners
    And the county’s facilities and building department heads ! Wink wink

  12. wow says:

    And “thomas” I bet you complain about “government handouts”. This is one big giant government handout. It appears that Captains BBQ does not feel it needs to comply with laws. They have friends in high places.

  13. life customer says:

    Leave Captains alone ya’ll! I say give them whatever they want, whenever they want it, wherever they want it. They’re worth it and they deserve it, so do we. I hope staying in the park doesn’t end up holding them back.

  14. @dummiedave says:

    They were cited for coleslaw being 46*. Far from chicken 😂 you can look up Flagler restaurant inspections online. This is not unusual to find.

  15. Dianna says:

    I need some clarification please. Under documents above, it lists the “Proposed 2018 Lease.” But I thought this lease was approved, signed and in force.

  16. Fried Grits says:

    My goodness. If that building is so bad that Captain’s wants a brand spanking new one, and the lease is all funky, and the food is, well, suspect, why are the doors still open?

  17. palmcoaster says:

    Rescind their lease given this violation from 60 to 100 seats., increase their lease to cut off taxpayers forced to subsidize a private business and if they don;t like it …just go find another location more suitable for their profitable business.

  18. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Such an intelligent attorney we have to make such a stupid statement about the county having no control when he knows the COUNTY I the OWNER and LANDLORD of the property and can be held liable for any and all violations. That’s like saying only the driver is responsible in a car accident but the owner of the vehicle ( if different) has no liability !

    It’s so obvious that Hadeed need to go – he can’t even count tables in a restaurant 5 minutes walking from his home, but scares the county into thinking Captains can sue the county for lost income. 2 out of 3 are gone – now we need to find an attorney who knows that the owner of any property is liable for every accident and/or violation on that property.

  19. ASF says:

    Its amazing to me how the “DOWN with Captain’s BBQ’ crowd are the same ones who are against any expansion of anything except the boundaries of their own homes. Of course THAT’S different.

  20. MV says:

    If you read the lease….captains has violated it. Get them out of there. Enough is enough.

  21. Forever Young says:

    If they get 150 seats will they be serving liquor? Remember that the state doesn’t allow liquor 1000 feet near a church or a school Before you go and approve something again you might want to check that first

  22. scotchworks says:

    Does anyone remember the County Commision rubbing their hands with GLEE over the prospect of $1200/month lease revenue being generated from this property? Does anyone remember the “collective sigh” of relief from the County after signing a Lease with a new Tenant bringing an “amenity” to an underused/vacant building? Well, maybe not, but what we have surely progressed to is Captains BBQ is a successful operation ( shame on you Herrera and Goodman for trying to triple the seating at the property, shame on all the other county/state inspectors for not finding it earlier!) . It’s probably best for ALL concerned to “stick with the original footprint” or move on.

  23. The Geode says:

    With all the “hub-bub” about this place – it must have some damn good BBQ. I’m definitely going to spend my money to find out…

  24. mark101 says:

    @ Forever Young there is NO chruch or school within a 1000 feet , the nearest chruch is 7227 feet away and there is no schools.

  25. Dennis Clark says:

    Regarding the statement that, “the rated capacity of the present system for ‘single service seats’ per the Health Department is 80 seats”
    The statement directly from the Florida Health Dept is:
    “Taking into account that the park flow and residence flow is on the same system as Captain’s, our current code would allow for 33 single service seats, or 16 full service seats on the existing 1600 sqft drainfield. The code back in the 1991 allowed for 40 full service seats (or 80 single service seats), so as you can see things have changed a lot since then with regards to system sizing.”

  26. John caruso says:

    There may not be a church or school, but, there is a children’s playground. There have been comments that few children use the park. That is partially because the current restaurant fills the park with smoke and parking is a nightmare some times, because of all the restaurant customers taking parking spaces. It is time to return this park to us, the community. Captains can build their new building somewhere else and pay proper rent and TAXES like the rest of us. Enough of the county give-away, small business or not. Other small businesses don’t get this kind of deal. Why should they? Let’s treat all small business owners the same. Let the lease run out, and put the concession up for bid.

  27. palmcoaster says:

    Dennis Clark is correct their lease is in violation and the reason is a serious health one over the not sufficient or proper sewer system required for that high seating occupancy. Get them out!

  28. Concerned Citizen says:

    If the owners of Captains continues to violate their lease and bribe our County Officials( oops I mean contribute donations to campaigns wink wink) then changes are needed at the BOCC. Anywhere else leases are enforced with zeal but Captains keeps skating by. I suppose with Greg Hansen and Al Hadeed protecting them anything is possible.

    Remember this next time elections come around.

  29. Concerned Citizen says:

    @ Thomas

    Don’t know where you got your facts of “politicians ganging up”.

    This county has done more to protect Captains than it has any other business. The owners of Captains made large “campaign contributions” to Commissioners and other parties to ensure they could have free run of their restaurant. And only got caught because media got hold of the same politicians violating disclosure laws and trying to sneak new leases and expansion projects past the public.

    if you or I owned a business we would be hard pressed to keep it open after all of these shenanigans. .

  30. Truthbetold says:

    I’m tired of garbage food in this town. Just stop selling garbage food!!!! Can someone open a real restaurant preferably that sells seafood that comes from the ocean…and not the ocean in China. Can’t we just sit down first and foremost and decide county wide where everyone’s toilet flushes are going. Flagler county has SO many residents with true love and concern for this place we call home meanwhile council is full of out of town salary seekers. I got an about a new building for mental health for all our uninsured sufferers. Or possibly a counseling center. There are residents in this county who have no concern for this matter because they have life issues that Consume there daily lives,Hungry kids medical bills being sick and not being able to go to the doctor. And if I’m not mistaken people are what build a community not oversized restaurants on preserved locations. It’s hard to believe but the priorities of our government is way off in a town like this where people take pride in the beauty and serenity of this place. I don’t think anyone’s hungry for BBQ it sound like they hungry for MONEY.

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