November 9, 2007
The Flora-Bama Lounge and Package is a great little joint located on Perdido Key, half on the Florida side, half on the Alabama side. It has been made famous over the years by patron saints like Jimmy Buffet and by extraordinary events like the annual mullet toss. Its regular customers are an interesting assortment of Navy officers and enlisted personnel, of college students from across the southeast, and of locals.
And it keeps drawing the crowds back because of its great hospitality, driven in large part by co-owners Joe Gilcrist and Pat McClellan. I recently traveled home and introduced my Deputy Secretary Chuck Drago to Joe Gilcrist to learn more about what makes the Flora-Bama the cultural icon it is.
What we learned is that government places an incredible burden on Florida’s small businesses. The Flora-Bama is awash in government regulation. They have to work with us to get their liquor license. The Department of Revenue for Taxes. The Department of State to become incorporated. The Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Community Affairs to get permission to rebuild from Hurricane Ivan (3 ½ years after the storm). The Department of Transportation to get Perdido Key Drive widened to accommodate the thousands who come solely to visit the Flora-Bama. The Office of Insurance Regulation to find adequate property insurance and workers comp insurance. And that’s just at the state level. And I might have left off a few.
Then, there’s local government. While we were there, they were mounting a campaign to go before the County Commission for a variance for their rebuilding effort. Again, still waiting 3 ½ years after Hurricane Ivan. . . They’ve been functioning out of the remaining structures, a refrigeration truck, a mobile home for an office and several port-a-potties since the storm, and even with all of that, business continues to boom.
But something that Joe said really struck me as significant. He said, “All of this government regulation really forces standardization.” In order to comply with all of the regulation imposed by all of those state agencies, by all of the local bureaucrats, by all of the federal bureaucrats, you really have to have a paperwork factory put in place. And as you travel the state, the same signs along the highways confirm Joe’s perspective.
So, at our Department we’re working to eliminate or at least streamline forms and processes every day, and wherever possible, we’re cutting fees. We owe it to Joe.
By the way, this weekend they are hosting the 23rd annual Frank Brown International Songwriters Festival (http://www.fbisf.com/) where you can hear some of the best songwriters in the country. I promise it’s one of a kind.
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Tallahassee, Florida 32399
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