Code enforcement goes after Vellucci... again
Weirdness factor in Tavern on the Island story continues to climb as police investigate claims that Vellucci is threatening neighboring store owners
-- John Patten, 04/16/07
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Part 1: Look Hans, no permits
Part 2: Gay bar owner Mike Vellucci reportedly threatens city officials, city scrambles over itself not to give him a hard time
Part 3: Venice Florida! dot com to Marty Black: Suspend Behrens now, fuller investigation needed
Part 4: Tavern on the Island finally cited for code violations, bar owner to appear before city's Code Enforcement Board
Part 5: Behrens' building department story weirder by the day
TOTI gets slapped again
City Code Enforcement Inspector John Patek has cited Tavern on the Island again, this time for not getting permits before remodeling the interior of the bar. The violation notice (1 page, PDF) is dated April 1, 2008, two days prior to tavern owner Mike Vellucci's appearance before the code enforcement board on five other permit violations. The notice requires the bar owner to abate the violation within ten days from receipt of the notice. Sent by certified mail to the building owner's listed address in Warwick, Rhode Island, the post office green card that shows delivery of the certified letter has not been returned to the city yet.
According to Patek, neither Vellucci or anyone from Tavern on the Island has yet to respond to the notice.
While there appear to be differing stories as to who actually owns the building that the tavern is in, there are several letters in files at the Sarasota Clerk of Court's office signed by Vellucci in which he has identified himself as the landlord and/or the landlord's agent (Gerzeny v. Vellucci, e.g.).
Threats and allegations
Meanwhile, a battle has been brewing between Vellucci and the neighboring Hamilton Square Shopping Center over parking. Hamilton Square has some 50+ parking spots, Tavern on the Island has 21 which must be shared with businesses that are under the same roof as TOTI, including two small apartments above the bar that Vellucci is reportedly renting as hotel rooms.
According to store owners in Hamilton Square, the bar has been reportedly filling up the shopping center's parking lot on the weekends with overflow parking without asking for permission. Citing liability issues, Hamilton Square Association responded by putting up tow-away zone signs and notices. Several cars have already been towed.
An April 13th post on this web site's message board, attributed to an anonymous member of the Hamilton Square Association, highlighted the further tensions that followed Vellucci's appearance before the code board:
"Now that Mike Vellucci appears to have TOTI up and running with no trouble from the city, he has turned his attention to the businesses bordering his parking lot. Because of increased use of its parking lot after hours, the Hamilton Square association of businesses voted recently to renew no parking and tow signs on its private property. It was merely a liability issue for the plaza. As soon as the new signs were posted according to Florida State regulations, however, Mike Vellucci called and appeared in person to various owners in the plaza threatening to get even and make the plaza sorry for not allowing his customers to park on their land. Not backing down, the plaza has had several vehicles towed who were parked illegally. Since, it has been discovered that one business had it's pipes cut. Another business owner was impersonated on the phone to the contracted tow company of the plaza to have his wife's car towed. The tow signs have been bent and twisted on their posts. Mike Vellucci insists that all his troubles with the city started with our plaza. He told one owner that he has friends in the police department and they have told him all we've done and if we try to stop him, he will get even. We didn't even know the guy existed until he started bullying us. We simply needed to be able to keep our parking lot for our own use and we could not be liable for anyone else's use."
According to one business owner, Vellucci verbally stated he would "get even" with the store owners for not letting him use their parking lot. Additionally, the same woman who nearly had her car towed from in front of her own store reported that she has subsequently received a series of after-midnight harassing phone calls. The calls employed caller ID blocking. She stated that she is fearful that the calls may be coming from Vellucci.
On Wednesday, April 15, Police Chief Julie Williams stated that detectives from the Venice Police Department are investigating the incidents. While it has not been proven that Vellucci has caused any of the damage described in the above post, Venice Florida! dot com has confirmed that the vandalism and criminal impersonation did indeed take place as described.
As for parking, let's see here... the tavern has a licensed occupancy limit of 49, kept low to avoid the requirement to install fire sprinklers. But... if 21 and 50+ parking spots are all filled on a weekend evening, and the only business open there is the bar, that would mean...
nothing. I keep forgetting -- this is Venice. Sorry. I had a thought there, but how silly of me. Nevermind.
Eat at Joe's
One member of a local gay organization contacted me recently to accuse me of gay bashing, this for identifying Tavern on the Island as a gay bar. According to the caller, a man named "Joe" runs the bar and the bar is owned by "Joe's wife." This "Joe" claims he has conversed with me and that I stated that I wanted the gay bar shut down. Additionally, I am quoted by "Joe" as saying that I want to run all gays out of Venice.
I'm not aware of anyone from the tavern named "Joe," but I did have a rather lengthy conversation with Mike Vellucci a few weeks back. During the course of that conversation, I told Vellucci that a gay bar would probably be a welcome addition to Venice as there is a goodly-sized gay population in the town.
I stated much the same to city council, this in a video clip that was posted to YouTube on March 12.
By comparing notes through the course of the conversation, it became evident that (according to the caller), Mike Vellucci goes by the name "Joe" when interacting with the bar's gay clientele. This would be an odd addition to Vellucci's claim to me that his wife was actually his sister (obligatory Edgar Allan Poe reference inserted here).
Then again, maybe not so odd. The weirdness factor in this ongoing saga is already through the roof.
Battery court date coming up
Meanwhile, Vellucci has an upcoming court date in criminal court, this for a charge of battery against former girlfriend Deanna Galli. A jury trial is scheduled to start on April 28 in that case. According to a police report, Vellucci is accused of shoving Galli and stating "I could hit you, I could shoot you." The incident is alleged to have happened in North Port in the presence of a North Port police officer as well as Vellucci and Galli's pre-teen daughter.
Vellucci has been convicted several times of violence related crimes, including a felony conviction in Rhode Island for Assault with a Deadly Weapon. Additionally, Vellucci has been involved in over a dozen civil domestic violence court cases in Sarasota and Collier counties, listed alternately as either victim or aggressor.
John Patten is the editor and publisher of Venice Florida! dot com and had previously worked in broadcasting for over 12 years. He can also be incredibly rude at times.