Should Sebastian taxpayers give $90k to Crab E Bills for alleged loss in revenue?

Crab E Bills
Crab E Bills

During Wednesday night’s City Council meeting, Peter J. Sweeney, the attorney for Crab E Bills, said the eatery had allegedly lost $90,000 in revenue since November 2021, after the city closed off the back section of the building due to safety concerns.

Sweeney said at the meeting that he will be addressing the council about the $90,000.

When the city shut down the back dining area of Fisherman’s Landing, where Crab E Bills is a tenant, it was at the advice of their insurance company due to safety issues. Had someone been injured while dining at Crab E Bills in the back area, it would’ve been the city’s fault, and the potential litigation would’ve been extreme, costing taxpayers.

But to make up for the loss in seating, city officials moved the dining tables elsewhere inside/outside of the building.

According to city records, Crab E Bills can only have a seating area of six tables with no more than four seats and ten stools in a high-top area. So when the city moved tables from the hazard area to other places in the building, it provided the eatery with nine tables. That, of course, is extra seating and above the allowance.

The Lease

Transparency: There’s been so much talk about the LEASE, so we want to show what it says about repairs, and the interior/exterior of the building. They are in Sections 6 and 8:

Crab E Bill’s lease is Three-Thousand ($3,000) dollars per month.

Under Section 6 – IMPROVEMENTS:

The Leased Premises are accepted by the LESSEE “as is.” The following improvements requirements are adopted:

  • A. LESSEE, at its sole cost and expense may, after first obtaining the written approval of the LESSOR, and in strict accordance with the Management Plan, design, permit, and construct any improvements to the existing structure, or place a new structure on the Leased Premises.

Under Section 8 – BUILDING, UTILITIES, MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS:

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  • A. LESSEE agrees that all portions of the Leased Premises shall be kept in good repair and condition by LESSEELESSOR assumes responsibility for maintenance of the exterior structure. LESSEE shall maintain and make all necessary repairs and alterations to the interior Leased Premises to keep the Leased Premises in good condition. LESSEE’S sole right of recovery shall be against it’s insurers for losses, or damage, to stock furniture and fixtures, equipment, improvements, and betterment. LESSEE agrees to make or contract for emergency repairs and provide protective measures necessary to protect the Leased Premises from damage and to prevent injury to persons or loss of life. LESSEE agrees to use its best efforts to insure that the Property is maintained in an attractive condition and in good state of repair. LESSEE shall also keep the Leased Premises free of trash and debris. 
  • B. The interior and exterior of the Leased Premises shall be kept clean. It shall be LESSEE’S responsibility to provide and pay for interior pest control. 

The lease was then signed by ALL PARTIES (including Suzy Andrews), and reviewed and approved by the Florida Communities Trust.

Crab E Bills

The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to spend $50,000 to fix the current problems with the structure. But as councilman Bob McPartlan pointed out, he’s afraid that the building will require more repairs once they begin to open up walls and ceilings.

One resident during the meeting suggested that the city lower the rent, even though Crab E Bills pays far less than market value or any other nearby business because of the Stan Mayfield Working Waterfront Grant.

There was also talk that Crab E Bills is the last remaining fish house in the area, blaming the City of Sebastian for not saving the Archie Smith Fish House and Judah & Sons Fish Market. But that’s not the real story.

The true story is that the Archie Smith Fish House is in the county, not in the City of Sebastian. Also, the Fish House is still standing, and you can see it on Indian River Drive next to the Sebastian Saltwater Marina Restaurant. What collapsed in the water was the Ice House, which was built in the 1980s.

As for the Judah & Sons Fish Market, that was also not the fault or responsibility of the city. Privately owned, the family sold the land to a new owner and retired. Unfortunately, the new owner tore down the building because it was about to collapse into the Indian River Lagoon due to a cracked seawall.

The Fisherman’s Landing building, where Crab E Bills is a tenant, was never a fish market until 2014. Also, the building is not historical, and if it’s a landmark, it’s more about Hurricane Harbor than anything else.

The 100-year-old building itself had multiple uses, from being a warehouse to an automotive repair shop. It was never a fish house, but it was a warehouse for bootlegging back in the day. It also sat empty for several years. The city purchased the building just over ten years ago to preserve the property. It is the center of the working waterfront district.

So now, Crab E Bills has instructed its lawyer to seek $90,000 in alleged loss revenue. So the big question is: Should Sebastian taxpayers be on the hook?


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About Andy Hodges 2804 Articles
Andy Hodges was born in Annapolis, Maryland, and raised in Jupiter, Florida. He has been a radio and TV personality since the mid-1980s. He has worked for WFLX-TV (Fox 29), WIRK, WLIZ, WIXI, WKSY, WRMF, and others. In 1994, Andy took a break from broadcasting and was a software and systems engineer for various companies. In 2002, he permanently moved back to Sebastian, where Andy's family has lived for over 45 years. He returned to the broadcasting sector in 2005. Andy joined Sebastian Daily as our editor-in-chief in 2016.