ENGLEWOOD BEACH, Fla. - Some Englewood Beach businesses are accusing Charlotte County of bringing a competing business that will hurt them. Their Commissioner says, that's not the case.
Donald and Judy Vaillancourt usually haul a cooler to the beach. But to grab a hot dog without having to cross the street, "I think that would be wonderful. I think that would be nice for the kids too," Donald Vaillancourt said.
Charlotte County Commissioners are negotiating with Venice Pier Group to run a trailer on the beach selling shirts, hot dogs, sunscreen, and possibly even alcohol.
"I think it would be very convenient, easy, yeah, I like the idea," Judy Vaillancourt said.
While beachgoers see it as convenient, local businesses see it as competition. They're worried it will keep people from crossing the street. "It's the worst year in 75 years, record cold and heat have kept people indoors, and they are going to put this in a prime location in front of all of these businesses," Pat O'Connor, Owner of White Elephant Pub said.
"I can't understand why a county would even think of going into competition with those that feed them," business owner Keyes Elmore said.
A petition circulating the community already has well over 1,600 signatures. Their main concerns: loss of revenue, litter, and a potential 30-foot eyesore. ":Leave the outsiders out, let the businesses here survive, and leave the beauty of the beach where it is," Andrea Barber, of Brett Barber and Co. Realtors said.
Commissioner Robert Skidmore says the idea is to attract people and money, and prevent a tax increase... not compete. "This is not exclusive," Skidmore said. "If there are local businesses out there that want to try to offer a product to Englewood beach, we are more than willing to entertain that opportunity. The original directive was to not set out to be in direct competition with the small business owners."
He said the vendor could bring more than $16,000 to the county. "That's the whole goal - to make beach parking free," Skidmore said.
Skidmore hopes to have it up and running by tourist season.
Those opposed to the vendor are taking their protest to the sidewalks. Saturday at 11 a.m., the White Elephant Pub is hosting a "Save Our Beach" rally.