Pensacola, Florida
Saturday August 30th 2014

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The Buzz 7/12/12

WOOING AEROSPACE The City of Mobile and its chamber are worried that Pensacola might lure away one its largest employers. According to the Mobile Register, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce CEO/President told the paper that a Pensacola delegation has been trying to recruit ST Aerospace Mobile and its more than 1,000 employees.

ST Aerospace Mobile President Joseph Ng did not immediately return calls requesting comment. A Pensacola city spokesman, declined to comment, according to the paper.

The paper reported Mobile Councilman Fred Richardson commented on the possibility in a Tuesday council meeting. “It would appear to me that, with all the division among the council about the city’s finances, [the Pensacola officials] feel like the city has faltered. We created a climate where people from other cities feel like they can come in and court our major industries.”

THE YOGI AND THE BREWER Both businesses on the southwest corner of Seville Square offer customers relaxation. The current mood in this nook of Pensacola’s historic district, however, is anything but relaxed.

“What we’ve got is an issue with a couple of tenants butting heads with each other,” said Robert Overton, who heads up West Florida Historic Preservation, Inc.

The streets around Seville Square are lined with historic cottages and buildings. The area comprises the historic district and is overseen by the University of West Florida, which rents out some of the properties to area businesses.

Across from the Old Christ Church, one historic building houses both the Pensacola Bay Brewery and Breathe Yoga Studio. The vacant space between the two is the source of the current conflict.

“It’s not that I’m opposed to the beer,” said Sandra Sanford, owner of Breathe Yoga Studio. “I know the beer gets great reviews—my husband says it’s great.”

The yoga studio used to be neighbors with the brewery, but recently moved one door down, creating the vacant space between the two businesses. Feeling the activity at the brewery—“we’re talking light industry”—was not conducive to practicing yoga, Sanford had hoped the move would offer a buffer of sorts.

Now, the Pensacola Bay Brewery is looking to expand. Co-owner Elliott Eckland said the business plans to rent the empty space and use it for offices, as well as a place to put an additional cooler. The brewer described the yogi’s complaints as “100 percent exaggerated.”

“I mean, just overreaching,” Eckland said.

While he allowed that the brewery did entail related activity—the delivery of supplies, leaving wooden pallets out for pickup once a week, etc.—Eckland said he has made attempts to appease Sanford, but that she had become unreasonable in her requests.

“The problem was, nothing was ever good enough,” he said.

The brewery owner said that Sanford voiced concern when he first opened shop, complaining about construction related noise. After Eckland tried to schedule the work around Breathe’s class schedule, the yogi reportedly complained about the brewery playing music and requested it stop.

“And I was like, ‘that ain’t gonna happen,’” Eckland said. “That’s not realistic.”

For her part, Sanford doesn’t feel a brewery belongs in the area, or constitute the “highest and best use” of the historic property. She fears that the business will eventually expand to the point of taking over the entire building it now resides in.

“It really bothers me,” she said. “This whole corner here, five or 10 years from now, people are going to be saying, ‘How did they let a brewery there?’”

Overton, and the board at WFHP, Inc., is charged with approving tenants in the historic district. The non-profit depends on the rentals for income.

“We try to look at what’s the best thing for the district,” Overton said.

Currently, the board has two proposals before them for the empty space between the brewery and yoga studio. One proposal is from the brewery, and the other is from another yoga business that Overton said has intentions to buy Sanford’s business and make use of both spaces.

“So, Sandra’s got a little bit of an interest in seeing us not having the brewery there,” he said.

Sanford preferred not to elaborate on that point, but said such a business deal was probably no longer in play. The studio owner said her interests lie in protecting her studio and the feel of the neighborhood.

“I’m really upset,” she said. “Two-fold, it messes with my business and it messes with the park.”

Eckland disagrees. The brewer referred to his business as an “anchor store” and said it has been good for the area.

“I think she needs to go back to school and learn some economics,” he said.

Overton tended to agree—calling the brewery “fairly successful”—and said the board would probably approve the business’ proposal.

“We’ve seen a lot of increased foot traffic because of it,” he said. “A lot of our visitors who go on our tour have always asked, ‘Where can I get a drink?’ It’s nice to point them right down the street.”

Eckland said that he feels the yoga studio will still be afforded a “buffer” if the brewery expands into the vacant space.

“It’ll have a buffer between the two businesses because coolers don’t make any noise,” he said.

Sanford said that she has no intentions of pulling up stakes if the brewery gets the spot. “We’re totally grateful to be here, we’re not going anywhere.”—but that she’s hoping others who may share her concerns will press the issue with the WFHP board during its July 16 meeting.

“If people are ok with it being there then I’ll just go away and shut my mouth, but if people have concerns they should step up and say something,” she said. “You think of a yoga instructor—we’re all love and peace. But, we’re also activists.”

Eckland said he was not overly concerned with the neighborly conflict, but rather more focused on expanding his growing business.

“I need more room so I can make more beer and employ more people,” the brewer said. “I’m not the one blowing this totally out of the air.”

RUBIO’S RIGHT-WING DIMPLES Back by the science fiction section, at the end of the line, he was being referred to as “very visionary,” “very sincere” and “very smart.” At the front of the line people described him as “fantastic,” “bright” and “something to reckon with.” It was a friendly crowd.

Sporting wristbands that assured their placement in line, the people gathered at Barnes & Noble in Pensacola July 3 had come to see a G.O.P. poster boy—U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. The Florida politician swung through on his book signing tour, with speculation of his rounding out the Romney presidential ticket close on his heels.

Outside the bookstore’s front entrance, the senator’s bus hummed contently. Emblazoned on the side, Rubio’s young mug—a cross between a conservative cherub and a Latino-Donny Osmond—gazed across the parking lot begging the voting public to pinch his cheeks. Admirers paused to have their picture snapped while posing next to the bus.

Since embarking on his book tour—for his newly released “An American Son”—Rubio has attracted throngs of people to the signing events, which have the feel of an election-year circus. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s camp has hinted that the Republican-wonderboy may be a contender for the VP slot—he has good dimples, real good, and maybe an edge with Latino voters—but the senator has consistently deflected the subject.

“Oh, no, no one’s ever asked me that,” Rubio laughed, when a local reporter popped the vice-presidential question Tuesday night.

In a quick huddle with local media, the senator hit all the day’s high notes. He breezed over the subject of immigration (“I can’t ignore that issue, it’s all around me.”) and the economy (“It’s not growing.”) and the RESTORE Act (he supported the final version).

Rubio also tossed out some post-ruling G.O.P. talking points on the recently upheld Affordable Care Act. Like most Republicans, the senator frames the health care overhaul as “a middle-class tax increase.”

“I respect the court, I respect the constitution—I don’t agree with their decision, but I respect it,” Rubio said, smiling cautiously. “In my opinion, Obamacare is a bad idea.”

Discussing politics and policies surrounded by children’s books seemed almost obscene. Besides, that wasn’t what the people lined up with wristbands wanted. They came for the dimples.

Many of the people in line held multiple copies of “An American Son” for the senator to sign. The extras, no doubt, would be given out as Christmas presents, or maybe sold on eBay in a few years if Rubio ascends the political ladder.

Clamoring in a cluster a little ways back in the line, a group of women began singing patriotic songs. They collectively gushed and blushed—like preteens dreaming of a boy band—while explaining that Rubio was the next big thing.

One of the singing women was thrust forward. “This is a lady that escaped from Cuba, she has a story to tell.”

Alina Franco Atwell smiled and recounted how she arrived in the U.S. in January of 1971. Her father had spent 12 years in a Cuban prison and other relatives had been sent to labor camps. Her family was fleeing Fidel Castro’s island.

The woman didn’t flinch when asked to square her personal experience with Rubio’s stance on immigration policy. She is not an immigrant, she explained, but rather a political refugee that became an American citizen.

“You earned it,” one of the other women told her.

“You did it the right way,” another said.

Rubio—the son of Cuban immigrants—used a similar line of reasoning until the Washington Post pointed out that his parents had arrived in the U.S. more than two years before Castro overtook the island. The senator’s stance on illegal immigration is softer-edged than the majority in his party, but he also supports notions such as Arizona’s controversial SB 1070. His consistent comment on the matter has boiled down to “it’s complicated.”

“I like his stance on protecting the young children because they’re here through no fault of their own,” Atwell said.

But the Cuban woman prefers not to get bogged down with the senator’s immigration views. It is, as the senator has said, a complicated issue and, besides, her friends were already neck-deep into their Fourth of July celebrations.

“I’m not only drawn to him because of the Cuban-connection, but for what he stands for,” she said. “I think people have to understand that things that are going on in this country are un-American.”

Farther back in the line, Lou Leitenburger waited with wristband number 00133 for his turn to meet the senator. It wouldn’t be the first time—Rubio won him over during a brief encounter a couple of years ago.

“Well, I met him at the airport,” Leitenburger said. “He was a nice man. A nice gentleman.”

The elderly man felt some connection to the senator due to the young politician’s Cuban descent. Rubio’s parents hailed from the island and the man had been stationed there prior to Castro and the subsequent U.S. embargo.

“I put two years down in Cuba, it’s a beautiful country,” the old man recalled. “They had rum, $2.25 a gallon—that was the best part.”