CITY: WE’LL REMOVE EARLY CHRISTMAS PARADE CHAIRS
The city of Lakeland says this time they’re serious about removing chairs put out before the day of the Christmas Parade. For several years, the city has asked people not to put up chairs early, but each year more chairs have blocked sidewalks and crosswalks for several days in early December. City spokesman Kevin Cook said this year, chairs placed on public rights of way before Dec. 5, parade day, will be taken to Tigertown, where their owners can go fetch them.
UNDAUNTED, COUPLE PUSHES AHEAD WITH PRESCHOOL PLAN
Even after two city boards rejected their plans, Thomas and Madison Brawner are pressing ahead with their dream of turning a landmark 107-year-old mansion in the Lake Morton area into a Montessori-based preschool. The city planning board said the couple needed a better plan for traffic and parking before it would approve their plans for the Deen House. And the historic preservation board said no to putting fire escapes on the structure. The Brawners say they’re working on new approaches. Stay tuned.
DOWNTOWN GROWTH FUELED BY CRAFT BEER, ARTISAN FOOD
Craft beer, food trucks and artisan treats are expanding the boundaries of the downtown entertainment district. First were The Poor Porker to the east and Swan Brewing to the west. Yard on Mass, a family-friendly food-truck park and beer hall that opened last month has people going to Massachusetts and Parker for its backyard party vibe. And The Joinery, expected to open in the next few months on Lake Mirror, has announced a lineup of vendors who will be serving ramen, poké bowls, wood-fired pizza, tacos, ice cream, gourmet popsicles, coffee — and craft beer, of course.
LAKELAND GETS ITS VERY OWN CHRISTMAS ALBUM
Lakeland’s burgeoning music scene is showcased on a just-released Christmas compilation. Ten artists give their personal interpretations of holiday songs in “A Lakeland Christmas,” produced by The Vanguard Room, a Dixieland recording studio. The album is available on streaming services, and fans can get LP copies at Jesse Carl Vinyl. All 10 acts will recreate the album at a concert scheduled for Union Hall Dec. 13 and 14. “The important thing was to do something community-driven,” said Vanguard co-owner (and Copeland founder) Aaron Marsh, one of the musicians on the record.
VOTERS PICK NEW CITY COMMISSIONER IN DEC. 3 RUNOFF
And then there were two: A four-way race for City Commission was whittled to two political newcomers competing in a runoff election Dec. 3. Chad McLeod, a public relations professional with a young family, faces Carole Philipson, a retired health care executive who has been active on civic boards. Also during the Nov. 5 city election: Bill “Tiger” Read was re-elected to the City Commission; voters turned down a charter amendment that would have reduced the barriers to selling Lakeland Electric but approved amendments that tightened term limits for city elected officials and updated city charter language.
PROSECUTORS’ DECISION CLEARING LPD OFFICERS DRAWS PROTESTS
Reaction was swift last month after the State Attorney’s Office cleared the three Lakeland Police officers involved in last December’s fatal shooting of a 17-year-old who they said was trying to run them down with a stolen car. The teen’s mother said she has an attorney ready to take action; the head of the local NAACP chapter asked to have an outside agency review whether police were operating within standards; and a group of the teen’s supporters went to Bartow to protest in prayer and a demonstration simulating mass death at the Polk County Courthouse.
HOSPITAL CONSOLIDATING MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES IN A NEW FACILITY
Lakeland Regional Health is hoping to move quickly on a new behavioral health facility just south of the main hospital campus, expanding and centralizing services it says are integral to the mental health of the community. The health facility would be located just east of Henley Field on property that was once part of the city’s Adair Park. Three single-story buildings will be connected by landscaped courtyards and walkways. Natural light indoors is intended to create a therapeutic environment. Construction of the 80,000-square-foot facility is expected to be complete in 2021 and will expand the hospital’s mental-health capacity from 68 beds to 96.
ATTENTION-GETTING NEW MURAL HAS A RICH HERITAGE
There’s an interesting back-story to a colorful new mural that recently debuted on the side of Gaines Jewelers on Tennessee Avenue downtown. The brightly flowered mural that Gillian Fazio recently painted is based on the “Tobacco Leaf” pattern hand-painted on an expensive line of china. The owner of the company that manufactures the china - Mottahedeh Fine Dinnerware - is a fan of the mural and is flying from New York to see it at the Gaines Christmas party. We don’t know if she’ll take an Instagram-worthy selfie at the mural, but plenty of Lakelanders are.
CHEF T’S HAS CLOSED BUT OWNER MAY DON CHEF’S JACKET AGAIN
Chef T’s Garden Grill has closed for business after a long run. It’s not entirely out of the question that the fine-dining restaurant in a 1920s-era yellow house has a future as Chef T’s again. “But for now I’m hanging up my chef’s jacket,” Terry Doner said. The restaurant managed to thrive and survive for more than 11 years since Doner bought the now-94-year-old, two-story house on Gary Road. Doner said “after a sabbatical” he might open another restaurant. Another Chef T’s at the same location? “It isn’t out of the question.”
FOOD BANK REOPENS AFTER BEING FLATTENED BY A TORNADO
After being destroyed by the tornado that plowed through west Lakeland in October, the pastor of Mount Tabor Baptist Church discovered the building housing the food bank that served 150+ people was totaled. But the food bank has a one-year reprieve via a portable unit loaned to the church by Kathleen Middle School. The church has received a $93,000 insurance settlement, but is facing an expenditure of $125,000 for a water tank needed to meet fire codes. For now, Pastor Matt Gilmore is taking it a day at a time and cutting corners wherever possible.