Coral Gables

Coral Gables commissioners OK settlement over coffee shop conflict

The proposed site of the new Tinta y Cafe at 1315 Ponce de Leon Blvd. Coral Gables commissioners approved a settlement after some nearby residents expressed concerns over plans for a “cafecito” window.
The proposed site of the new Tinta y Cafe at 1315 Ponce de Leon Blvd. Coral Gables commissioners approved a settlement after some nearby residents expressed concerns over plans for a “cafecito” window.

Another café may be bringing colada and pastelitos to Coral Gables after the city commission approved a settlement and design plan for Tinta y Café at Tuesday’s meeting.

The approval and settlement come after some disagreement between the owner of the property, 1315 Ponce de Leon Blvd., and some nearby neighbors on Salamanca Avenue who opposed the café’s plans for a coffee service walk-up window and outdoor seating.

The settlement has several conditions including: no outdoor live music, no outside speakers or signage except on Ponce de Leon and a cut-off time of 8 p.m. for window service and outdoor seating. The seating is also subject to review by the city’s board of architects and the planning and zoning board.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the opposition didn’t change its opinion and said that while they supported having a vibrant restaurant, they didn’t want the window there at all.

“We object to the window and the outdoor seating which will bring noise, pollution and disrupt our way of life,” neighbor Rachel Lauzurique said.

The café’s owner, Neli Santamarina, had overwhelming support during the meeting as essentially every member of the public, aside from Lauzurique and two other neighbors, spoke in favor of the café.

Although many of the speakers live in other parts of Miami-Dade and frequent Tinta’s current location in Miami, 268 SW Eighth St, some of them were also Gables residents and business owners.

They said their experience at the restaurant has been positive, the space has been clean and the window was part of the café’s charm. Patrons also talked about the café’s local and national popularity and the variety of professionals it attracts.

“This is a small coffee house where people of all different walks of life come together, drink some coffee and then go to work,” said attorney Eric Padron, who has a law office on Ponce de Leon.

Still, the residents who disagree with the plan held fast to their beliefs and chastised the commission after the vote was final.

“You have failed this community,” resident William Donnelly yelled from the audience after the commission approved the settlement.

The city commission said they understood the fears expressed by the trio of neighbors, but they they were encouraged by Santamarina’s promises to keep the space orderly and clean.

“I don’t have people hanging out at the window,” Santamarina said. “I’m not Versailles or La Carreta, I’m very small.”

Commissioners were more focused on making improvements to the city code which caused much of the confusion over whether the window was allowed and to improving communication in future instances.

The city’s code prohibits walk-up windows at restaurants along certain roads including Coral Way, Biltmore Way and Ponce between Southwest Eighth Street and Bird Road. But that law does not prohibit windows entirely, just windows used for walk-up service.

The plans for the window at Tinta were allowed to advance through the zoning review process even though City Attorney Craig Leen offered an opinion last July indicating that the walk-up window wasn’t allowed.

“Instead of being done cooperatively among staff, so each of you could talk about the applicability, it was done in these silos,” Commissioner Patricia Keon said. “I do think the conflicting opinions, as a city, was not our best hour.”

The city plans to address some of the ambiguities in the code related to the windows and to outdoor seating through future amendments and public discussions.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3