Cafe Erotica meets wrecking ball Monday

St Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure reported to Historic City News today that he followed the wishes of his constituents in District 3; pushing for a controversial landmark building to either be demolished, brought up to code, or rebuilt.

In a lengthy barrage of threats, accusations, humiliation, and lawsuits dating back to 1998, the County has fought a seemingly un-winnable war against Café Erotica; that, at times, seemed to be nothing more than a battle of bruised egos.

The late Asher Sullivan of Gainesville took up arms against code enforcement officer James Acosta, after he was cited for alleged violations of the county sign code at the one time night club that advertised they would “Dare to Bare”.

In one volley, Sullivan called Acosta out by renting a billboard visible from the Interstate highway that made fun of the code enforcement officer by name; comparing him to Barney Fife, the fumbling deputy character from Mayberry.

Cafe Erotica has sued the county multiple times over the county’s sign ordinance. In 2001, the County Commission refused a sign permit for two signs, but the case went to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which ruled in favor of Cafe Erotica.

After Sullivan’s death, things quieted down and the structure was abandoned; eventually slipping into a hazardous condition.

McClure said that on March 18, 2014, a complaint was received that reported the structure was “falling down” and “deplorable”. The complainant requested that the County respond and inspect the property.

A Request to Inspect was delivered to the bank of record and the last known property owner. On May, 9, 2014, St. Johns County Code Enforcement was given verbal authorization to inspect the structure.

A Code Enforcement officer and an inspector from the county Building Division conducted a tandem inspection that same day and observed several large holes in the roof, the entire structure had been severely vandalized, and the building, located at 2628 SR-207, on the west side of I-95 on SR-207, was full of transient debris.

It was determined that the roof was no longer viable and could not be repaired, the structure was likely not salvageable, and it would require an engineer to test the masonry load prior to a permit being issued.

A Notice of Violation was mailed to the owner providing them with 30-days to either repair or remove the structure. When neither option was completed within the allotted timeframe, a Notice of Hearing was mailed to the owner that required the owner to attend a Construction Board of Adjustment and Appeals hearing on August 25, 2014.

The property owner was given until September 30, 2014 to either obtain a permit to repair or demolish the structure and to complete the work by October 27, 2014.

Since the property owner showed that they had a contract in place with a demolition company to remove the structure, the Construction Board of Adjustment and Appeals granted an extension until January 26, 2015. This month, mandated asbestos abatement was completed.

On Monday November 24, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. McClure reports that the owner has verbally confirmed that the demolition will finally become reality — sixteen years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees after the first punch was thrown.

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