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Fuego Del Mar Restaurant Owner Again Draws Commissioner McGrew’s Wrath in Battle Over Entertainment Permits

| September 12, 2014

Fuego Del Mar restaurant in Flagler Beach got a conditional permit for outdoor entertainment in the building itself, but not for the parking lot in the foreground. (c FlaglerLive)

Fuego Del Mar restaurant in Flagler Beach got a conditional permit for outdoor entertainment in the building itself, but not for the parking lot in the foreground. (c FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach City Commissioner Joy McGrew decidedly does not like Nick Kimball, the owner of Fuego Del Mar restaurant. For the second time in 15 months, McGrew publicly let loose a torrent of venom against Kimball, questioning his word, his neighborliness, his business habits, even his “good faith.”

This time the restaurateur wasn’t even in the room. He was on his way to a funeral. Didn’t matter to McGrew. She did not want his outdoor music permit renewed and didn’t want to let him have a similar permit for an empty lot next door, where Kimball, whose business has done well, has been hosting such things as movie nights and Monday Night Football on a big screen.

She was in a 3-2 minority on the music permit, but was part of a unanimous rejection on the request for the parking lot in separate votes Thursday evening. In Kimball’s absence, it was left up to his attorney, Dennis Bayer, to charge that the city was applying a double standard to Fuego Del Mar, singling it out for issues the city does not enforce with other restaurants—or being made to landscape grounds while the city itself exempts itself of similar requirements.

“The city’s parking lot, talking about something looking a little scraggly, it could use a little TLC, too,” Bayer said at one point, using the acronym for tender loving care in a tone surfing the edge of sarcasm. “Just a friendly reminder.”

McGrew skipped all subtleties. She recalled a little over a year ago Kimball’s initial request for an outdoors entertainment permit, which was granted based on a series of criteria he had to meet. “I also remember very strongly asking him to be a good community neighbor, and, ‘not a problem, not a problem, not a problem,’” McGrew said, as if quoting Kimball. “I think he should have his work done by the time his permit expires this year or he doesn’t get it. It’s not like he didn’t know he didn’t have to have them.” The city has raised issues with Fuego Del Mar’s parking lot configuration, striping and bumpers.

“He doesn’t have the stripes, he knew that the bumpers were no alternative,” McGrew continued. “Now all of a sudden we’re giving him so much time to come in compliance for something he’s had open for a year. We’ve asked him to be quiet. We’ve had complains. I mean, he’s not being the person he said he was going to be. He’s not running the business he said he was going to run.”

Last June, Kimball, when he was in the commission room, accused the city of restricting his ability to do well. McGrew at the time called that “crap,” and has since, apparently, not forgiven him. “He has blatantly rubbed in our face that we do not have a way to truly—it’s not discipline, but truly have him come into compliance,” she said Thursday, halfway through a nearly 90-minute discussion on the restaurant’s requests. “I feel like he has blatantly thrown it in  our face more than once. So why are we giving him 60 days? Why are we even giving him 45?”

“All we get is complaints, all we get is stuff thrown out on technicalities,” McGrew said. “He’s not being a good neighbor. He’s not being a good business person. I can say it all over again, it’s a bunch of crap. It got famous last time. But I just don’t believe that Mr. Kimball is truly in good faith, trying to be that good business neighbor. I mean, I’m not in favor of giving the permit, personally.”

The issue revolves around Fuego Del Mar’s compliance with the city’s noise ordinance. In Flagler Beach, 12 establishments have outdoor entertainment permits. Those get renewed annually and routinely as long as no violation of the noise ordinance is recorded on a business.

“If any of the permit holders have received a violation in the preceding 12 months they are required to go through the applications process again rather than automatic renewal,” Penny Overstreet, the city clerk. Noted.

In the past year, Finn’s had one violation, Johnny D’s had one, and Fuego Del Mar had three. Most were for $500, and all three of Fuego Del Mat were (two last November, one in December). Violations are assessed after a warning. The warning does not carry a fine, but it does count as a violation.

“We took them to a hearing and the special magistrate found that we were not guilty on any of those items,” Bayer said of the noise violations, “so I don’t know how they can be used as a negative marker against my client when we exercised our due process rights and there was a finding of no violation on those counts.”

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“I agreed then too that those should not be held against the applicant because they were dismissed by the magistrate,” Drew Smith, the city attorney, said. “Mr. Bayer is right there.” So it was never made clear Thursday evening why Fuego Del Mar was even appearing before the commission or, previously, before the so-called PAR Board (or planning and review), at least on the permitting for the main establishment. Bayer doesn’t dispute having had to appear for the permit on the empty lot adjacent to the business. Later in the hearing Thursday, Smith said that Fuego Del Mar was nevertheless guilty of a noise violation, which may have referred to the warning. As the permitting was before the PAR Board and the commission, other conditions for the permit were also at issue.

“It’s almost like there’s a case of selective enforcement on this issue,” Bayer said. “We’ll work with the city. I’ve worked up the original parking plan and we were told everything was in compliance.” He continued, “It’s almost like we’re getting singled out on this particular issue.” He cited the elevator installed at the restaurant at a cost of nearly $100,000, which he said goes “above and beyond” requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A half dozen residents spoke, dividing evenly between supporters and critics of the restaurant on the noise matter, before the commission took up the vote for the permit at the restaurant proper. Commissioners Jane Mealy, Kim Carney and Steve Settle approved, McGrew and Marshall Shupe dissented.

“That was a swing vote,” cautioned Bayer.

“Loud and clear,” Bayer said.

But it was not over. The commission then turned to the matter of the adjacent lot. Commissioners were not comfortable with Fuego Del Mar’s designs.  Carney said what happens on the lot may be different than “what it looks like on paper.” The city attorney termed the application “open-ended.”

“I don’t know that we give outdoor entertainment permits to parking lots or vacant lots or anything like that,” Linda Provencher, the mayor, said.

“The man opened a restaurant. Applied for outdoor entertainment” Mealy said. “Now we’re talking about movie screens, watching games. It’s not a sports bar, it’s a restaurant. I don’t know what else he wants to do out there. We could have children’s games in the middle of the afternoon for all I know. That’s not what his business is. His business is the restaurant that we’ve granted an outdoor entertainment permit to. Can we not limit what goes on if it’s a restaurant?”

The city can. As for the lot, the consensus was that Fuego Del Mar would not have an outdoors entertainment permit, but that it could apply for one-time-only special events permits, which would entail giving notice to neighbors, appearing before the PAR board and the commission.

But McGrew wasn’t done.

“Personally, from a  commissioner’s standpoint, I don’t have any faith in Mr. Kimball or what he says he’s going to do,” she said. “I truly don’t believe that this should happen unless we have a way of stopping a violation in its tracks the day it happens. And we don’t have a provision to do that. That means if Mr. Kimball decides not to do the permit process, do what he’s supposed to do, and he decides to throw up another Jack Daniels bottle and have a party, we can’t do anything about it. So once again we’re the fools, and I just don’t like that.”

Broadening her charge, she concluded: “There’s a huge amount of restaurants in this town and bars and whatever else you want to call them that seem to be able to work in compliance all the time. Mr. Kimball seems to like to walk on that outside edge most of the time. Why are now we not giving him special preference? I don’t get that. Now all of a sudden the tables turn, now all of a sudden we’re giving him time, we’re giving him allowances where he wants a permit to be able to put a tent in the middle of a parking lot. That’s not fair to me. That’s not fair. I think we’re very remiss if we grant this tonight knowing what we’ve heard from the residents and knowing the history.”

She had no objections to a special-event permit. But Fuego Del Mar’s outdoors entertainment permit for the use of the parking lot   was denied unanimously.

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31 Responses for “Fuego Del Mar Restaurant Owner Again Draws Commissioner McGrew’s Wrath in Battle Over Entertainment Permits”

  1. Sherry Epley says:

    Is Mayor Linda Provencher still the assistant manager of The Golden Lion? If so, is it proper that she comment regarding a competing business?

  2. former taco girl/fb local says:

    I use to work for Nick Kimball and it is appauling how someone can state he is not of good faith. Doesn’t this lady have a filter since she is the city commissioner?? Fuego del Mar is the best thing to happen to Flagler beach ! You should be praising him for all the business he’s brought to this town between the taco shop and fuegos when for so long the city could not come up with the funds to even keep the pier open. I remember when I worked at the taco shop the city always tried to find something wrong even though he was in full compliance .. I say this is a case of profiling. The kimballs are hard working and best people I know!

  3. LRM says:

    Commisioner McGrew should take a “chill pill” and when addressing the audience, show respect for them and not use the word “crap” and be proud of it. I’m offended just by reading it. Show some class and quit taking this “personal”. I could drop off a Thesaurus for you and maybe you can come up with more acceptable words to express your irritation and other opinions.

  4. chase says:


  5. JJ Graham says:

    Sounds like a bunch of power tripping… Nick maybe you are just having to much fun. This article makes me want to drop in for taco. :-)

  6. LRM says:

    I’ve decided I’m not done yet. Fuego Del Mar is a beautiful building that has added a unique look to our city. They are trying to feel out the customers by trying different things, like adding a comedy night on Wednesdays. Not every thing will work and people will complain and they will often have to change course.
    Commisioner McGrew personally attacked the owner’s integrity in front of a crowd. What would happen if a resident stood at the podium and trashed her. I’m guessing they would be ushered out of the meeting.

    A sound ordinance is almost impossible to govern. People I know have called for neighbors music and the police that responded said that the city doesn’t have the equipment to gauge the noise level. If that is true, the city needs to get some or eliminate the ordinance.

    One last thing, I agree with Attorney Dennis Bayer, when talking about the city’s landscaping. Take a walk from the Shell station on south 5th street north the Tavalocci building. Tourist walk those side walks every day and the landscaping is dismal, at best.

  7. confidential says:

    What about a little show of respect and more proper language in FB city meetings? Jeez that is supposed to be a lady official..?
    These businesses are located on A1A a commercial touristic main and scenic highway…and on a city that desperately needs the revenue generated by them like all the other cities in Florida. The residents that buy homes on these locations within 3 blocks radius of A1A, now or many years ago sure knew the implications of noise until late night, because people come to the beach allover to have a good time and frequent bars and restaurants with outdoors music and bands playing, exhaust motorcycles pipes full blast etc. Of course they do not play the good oldies maybe should try here and there, but sound rock, rap and reggae that is what the paying customers want. Want quiet nights should have bought close to the golf course not A1A, also would have been less expensive.
    I bought more than 10 miles from the airport and if I don’t battle them, I have to put up with louder nuisance than full blast music any time of day and night and the chance of an aircraft door or the whole plane falling overhead on us.

  8. former taco girl/fb local says:

    I’m not done either!! Who cares if he put a Jack Daniels up and threw a party . I do believe it was bike week with a surf competition going on. If anything it attracted business that the city needs , and it was a good day. Keep it up Joy and Nick will pack up and leave. Though u think that’s what’s best, I promise this town will be a ghost town and all small businesses will be forced to close. Oh and it’s a clear case of slander to when you attack a man’s character over permits . You have been doing this since he came to town..give it up already

  9. Kendall says:

    They must be taking a lesson from Palm Coast on being unfriendly to businesses.

    I agree that there is a conflict with the manager of a competing establishment sitting on the council. Fuego has a lot of potential- you would think Flagler Beach would support someone taking a dilapidated building and turning it into something as nice as fuego.

  10. Silvereed says:

    Next thing the city will want him to change his restaurant name to make it more tourist friendly. I’ve been here too long…….Damn I miss Casey’s…

  11. P J says:

    Nothing business friendly at FB they are giving touble with a business trying to open in the old Food Lion. They should appreciate that people want to do business in FB.

    Hey Nick I’ll be in for a little libations! Keep up the good fight!

  12. JJ Graham says:

    Sounds like a bunch of power tripping… Nick maybe you are just having too much fun. This article makes me want to drop in for tacos and a cervesa . :-)

  13. NortonSmitty says:

    About a mile South, Dani’s Restaurant went out of business just last week. And another colsed storefront can’t say anything good about our town. It sounds like at least this guy is trying to find a way to make it. Maybe the council and the noise whiners should wish him the best and get out of his way.

  14. PC OG says:

    Yet the same city has surreptitiously brought Bike Week into Flagler, when it was once a Daytona Beach event, at the ire of many residents. Not that I have anything against Bike Week but the hypocrisy is pretty blatant here…

    God forbid we get a decent bar that doesn’t stink and isn’t filled with sea hags.

  15. My thoughts says:

    I wll never knowingly patronize his businesses as I found him a jerk to deal with when I was a City employee.

  16. Knowsalittle says:

    Guess the city commission would rather look at the run down,closed Mothers Bar that sat empty for so many years. I miss Caribbean Sin that used to be on A1A and had issues with the city years ago, FB doesn’t appreciate the businesses that keep people coming to the city.

  17. fuegoforlife says:

    Yeah, take a chill pill Joy McGrew! Let’s start a petition!

  18. Jason Driggs says:

    Fuego Del Mar is the nicest, cleanest restaurant in Flagler Beach, well beyond anything else in town.

    Why are the commissioners in Flagler Beach and Palm Coast seemingly so opposed to local businesses?

    It’s one thing to enforce ordinances reasonably, fairly, and evenly. It’s something else to have a personal vendetta against a business owner just because you are in a position of some authority. Disgraceful.

  19. Seminole Pride says:

    When I go to a nice restaurant like Fuego Del Mar, I go for the dining, good food, service, and cleanliness.
    Keep the bars and entertainment for somewhere else. Flagler Beach needs more establish restaurants. Last thing I want to see is a bunch of bar flies laying around on the bar, when my date and I are trying to enjoy a great meal, and each others company in such a beautiful surrounding. Commissioner Joy, I see where you are coming from.

  20. Sherry Epley says:

    Flagler Beach recent restaurant closures include Blue, the Tuscan Grill, The Big Easy and Dani’s. The businesses in our wonderful town are struggling folks.

    How soon we forget the “eye sore” of Mother’s that sat empty for ages before the Fuego owner spent big bucks and turned that blighted building into an inviting restaurant and bar. Fuego’s is one of the very best of the few restaurants we have left in Flagler Beach. Their food is delicious and reasonably priced! The staff is welcoming, friendly and efficient. Nick, the owner, seems genuinely gracious and appreciative of his customers. If one doesn’t like the evening “bar” scene. . . go there for lunch instead. While having luch there recently, I asked for the music to be turned down for conversation. Our waitress did not hesitate. . . the volume was reduced immediately. Folks, if we want our town to survive, we cannot keep trying to turn it into a “retirement grave yard”. . . Geez! We will all get there soon enough!

    Our city commissioners should be appreciative, accommodating and helpful to those businesses that are searching for a way to provide excellent services for residents and tourists of “ALL” ages. Personal grudges, foul language, and conflicts of interests should have no place in city commission meetings or in city government period.

    We all take great pride in being one of the few uniquely genuine beach towns in Florida. Shouldn’t we be acting like adults instead of “old fools”!?




      I agree that the commissioner was wholly unprofessional in her handling of this.

      But you make a point that goes to the heart of this matter when you say “we all take great pride in being one of the few uniquely genuine beach towns in Florida.”

      One of the tasks with which we charge our commission is maintaining that image, and I contend that the image we want to maintain does not include giant Jack Daniels bottles.

  21. don't buy from bailed out says:

    Citizens of FB, how much more do you need to see. A commissioner crying at the dais over a firetruck?? Challenging a constituent to “so, you want to fight”. Then the latest less than acceptable commissioner behavior directed at one of our most popular businesses. These 2 are also in favor of the $580,000 firetruck that we don’t need. SHOW UP at your commission meetings. Remember – “A city of sheep breeds a government of wolves”.

  22. lawl says:

    This woman is forgetting the level of respect and tact some one in her position should posesss. If she even had a legitimate point at some time on her crooked soap box, it was lost and sullied by her demeanor and classless approach. Way to “represent” the public.

  23. confidential says:

    Lets keep Flagler Beach a fun town! Today it hit me…I went for a ride near Tomoka Park with our furry friend on the leash. Got off at North Peninsula ocean front park for a walk on the beach the three of us but a visible located sign on the dune overpass read “Not Pets Allowed on the Beach”. By the way there very few sunbathers and one paddle boarder on an practically deserted beach. Looked to our Pom and said honey you are not allowed so lets head to Flagler Beaches…and sure thing as soon as arrived few miles north on the vicinity of Snack Jacks we were welcomed with a nice sign that read “keep your pets on the leash at all times” the beach was nicely enjoyed by many, many goers half of them with their leashed pets. We were all happy enjoying Flagler beaches.
    Same while driving back home seeing all the patrons in Fuego del Mar, Finnegan’s, Food Lion’s and the others, busy enjoying libations, food and music. The FB commission needs to support not oppose those struggling businesses that generate the city’s much needed revenue. Keep FB a happy town as I saw it today.

  24. Mary says:

    Unfortunately this guy Kimball is a major jerk and has thumbed his nose at the city since he showed up. I totally support Ms McGrew, I’d be fed up with him too. When Nick Kimball is not trying to get something over on the city, screaming at his employees or driving around town speeding (while pretending to be talking to someone on the phone), he’s busy trying to fit his giant ego into any place that will listen to his stories of grandeur about himself. I gotta say, the Fuego building looks great but the food is just awful.

  25. Michael says:

    When will this tiny city understand that without night time enetertainment it will go brke, businesses will close and tax revenue will go down. Then the entire tax burden can fall on top of the residents, its just music, the city allowed these establishments to be built so blame them. If you bought a house behind a bar then you are to blame, but FB will fall on its face without these establishments

  26. steveg says:

    Why doesnt Finns or Golden lions have an elevator? Double standard?

  27. Dawn Romero says:

    I just wanted everyone to know, I am the owner of The Tuscan Grille and we are NOT CLOSED!!! We just moved to another location! We are now under the Flagler Beach Bridge, 820 Moody Lane, Flagler Beach!

  28. Jenna says:

    I agree with Mary. I’ve talked to a few of his employees and most of them seem to really dislike him. I used to eat at the taco shop but that new manager guy gave my husband an attitude. We’ve tried fuego a few times too many. Food always tastes bad and we only get good service half the time. The owner shouldn’t be allowed to run around like he owns the town.

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