A rendition of Crooked Palm Distillery at MM 90.1 on Plantation Key found within a project application. VILLAGE OF ISLAMORADA/Contributed

A new Islamorada council seated Dec. 6 will consider whether development of a distillery moves forward at the former BB&T Bank building on Plantation Key.

Specifically, council members will consider approval of a major conditional use to redevelop the building’s first floor into a distillery, restaurant and brewpub with outdoor seating area. Seven deed restricted residential housing units are located on the second floor. The applicant is CBT Construction and owner Chris Trentine. 

In September, the item was tabled due to ongoing discussions regarding conditions and certain aspects of the application. A special meeting initially planned for October was pushed back several times, and the request was expected to be considered at the Nov. 17 meeting. A notice wasn’t released in time to get it on the agenda, so the request will go before the new council next month. 

Property that would house the distillery fronts U.S. 1, Gardenia Street and Palm Drive on Plantation Key. It’s zoned village center and has a mixed use future land use classification. Near the proposed distillery sits Capt. Craig’s Restaurant, Payfair grocery store and a 24-hour 7-Eleven, of which all allow for the purchase or serving of alcohol. 

Described as an “island upscale” cocktail bar, Crooked Palm Distillery aims to serve Islamorada beer, cocktails on tap, frozen drinks and nonalcoholic mixers. The proposal initially included an outdoor seating area of 5,400 square feet. Since then, the outside area was reduced to 4,751 square feet.

Several variances are also requested with developments to the site related to landscaping, buffers and parking relaxations. For instance, a 50% buffer relaxation is requested on Gardenia Street. And a reduction of parking is requested from the required 70 spaces to 41. 

Trentine told the Keys Weekly in September that there are plans to place big buffers between the establishment and other buildings and homes to address concerns from the public over noise. Residents have voiced concerns to the village council over music that would potentially come from the property.

“The village has these big buffer requirements and they’re giving us a variance on that. In exchange we’re doing hedges, which actually creates more of a buffer,” he said. “It will be more of a wall of trees versus plantings that you see at Publix. 

“We’re doing a double hedge, we’re doing a fence around the outdoor seating area, and then that will have a hedge around it,” Trentine continued. “We will also have a hedge wrapping around from Gardenia Street to exit out of Palm Avenue, so that will be a double buffer.”

Through back and forth with the village, Trentine has agreed to 19 conditions in hopes of appeasing nearby concerned residents. They include limiting total occupancy of the distillery to 160 patrons, limiting hours of operation and amplified music outside, limiting the number of outdoor seats to 32 in the plaza area on top of providing buffers and landscaping. 

“Village Council should carefully consider the proposed intensity of the brewpub/restaurant/distillery. While strict application of village landscaping and buffer requirements is not warranted based on existing conditions, the size of the proposed outdoor seating area limits the ability to bring the site into a greater degree of compliance,” a staff analysis reads. 
In April, the village council approved an alcohol permit for the distillery.

Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.