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Residents of Shores get worked up over their morning coffee

STORY BY LISA ZAHNER (Week of March 13, 2014)
Photo: Citron Bistro in the Village Shops.

What does it take to awaken civic activism in the Town of Indian River Shores? Really good coffee, apparently, and a hot breakfast – or lack thereof.

Shores residents recently disappointed to find their new favorite breakfast spot, Citron Bistro, had been told it could not open mornings until 10 a.m. will be relieved that extended hours for breakfast, plus Sunday hours, got the thumbs-up from the town’s Planning Zoning & Variance Board Monday.

The town council was set to conduct a hurry-up vote on the needed variance Thursday morning and thus allow owners Jay and Joan McLaughlin to resume opening for breakfast at 8 a.m. Friday. The move came in response to dismay from locals, several of whom attended the meeting in support of Citron.

Mayor Brian Barefoot, who showed up for Monday’s meeting after being bombarded with complaints from Citron patrons, said he didn’t foresee any controversy at Thursday’s special call meeting scheduled specifically to consider the McLaughlins’ request.

“If the neighbors didn’t show up to complain today, no, I don’t think there will be a problem,” Barefoot said. “We all want the same thing. We want it to work.”

 The town’s accommodating posture is reportedly a reversal from a desire for Citron to follow the normal variance procedures, which would have meant no breakfast until at least after the March 27 regular council meeting.

The variance recommended by the planning board would permit Citron to operate from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Town code currently only allows restaurant operation from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The restaurant is still not permitted to allow any “odors” to waft over to the nearby houses, and to comply, the owners have installed a new exhaust system to trap any cooking smells.

Even if the 7 a.m. variance is granted, Joan McLaughlin said the actual opening time would probably be 8 a.m., however, as opening at 7 a.m. would require staff to be there even earlier. Citron has worked with town officials to ensure that early-morning deliveries would be made in the front, and not the back of the restaurant which abuts a residential neighborhood.

Any variance that’s granted could be revoked should there be repeated complaints, Planning Chairman Bill Beardslee said.

“If we get complaints, you’re allowed one chance to fix it, and if there are any more complaints we can revoke the variance,” Beardslee said.

John’s Island resident Duke Habernickel rose to speak in favor of the variance, “We would love to have a place to go for breakfast,” he said.

McLaughlin said she looks forward to resuming breakfast, noting that oatmeal and steamed eggs have been the most popular dishes and that customers flock in for the coffee. “We have great coffee,” she said.

And starting next week, she said the 60-seat restaurant will stay open from 3 to 5 p.m. in-between lunch and dinner for limited service and then re-open again for dinner at 5 p.m., with the last seating at 8 p.m. “We have our beer and wine license now, so between lunch and dinner, we’ll probably just do wine, beer and cheese platters,” she said.

With regard to the civic activism on her behalf from all the folks who called or emailed to drum up attention to the variance request, McLaughlin said, “We thank everybody for their support; we’ve had a great response from the community.”

Larry Leonard, attorney for the McLaughlins, said the granting of the variance to extend the hours would afford “greater stability and improve the overall upscale ambience of the Village Shops.”

Planning board member Linda Bolton said, “I’d love to see that business thrive and prosper.”