- By Kevin D. Thompson Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Artsy Fartsy, the eccentric gift shop owned by Brian Schlitz, didn’t last long on Lucerne Avenue.
About one year.
“The mayor says we’re working toward something,” Schlitz says, “but we’re really going backwards.”
Things started going downhill for Schlitz on Feb. 19 when Yolanda Robinson, Lake Worth code compliance manager, visited his store and asked him to remove items he had next door in front of the old South Shores Tavern and Patio Bar , which closed after 12 years in 2015.
“I told her no problem,” Schlitz said. “And I just asked if you’re doing this to me, go over to (City Commissioner Andy) Amoroso (who has a downtown gift shop) and tell him to move his stuff. She told me he was in compliance.”
Schlitz said Robinson came back on Feb. 25. At 8 a.m. The day of the popular Street Painting Festival.
“She threatened me saying that PBSO was coming back with her in 10 minutes if I didn’t remove my goods,” he says. “I’ve put myself under that awning for one year and I never had a problem. When she came, I was recording the conversation and she knew I was recording.”
The Palm Beach Post reached out to Robinson, but Ben Kerr, Lake Worth’s city spokesman, said the city had no comment.
The Post also reached out to PBSO spokeswoman Teri Barbera. “I’m told that this comment may have been a heat of the moment statement by Ms. Robinson,” Barbera said. “PBSO may stand by for code enforcement, however (it) does not get involved in code enforcement matters.”
“PBSO is not in the moving business,” Schlitz says. “That’s not their function.”
But Schlitz is really mad at Amoroso, who he says called Robinson about the issues in front of his store. Amoroso owns a gift shop, Studio 205, off Lake Avenue, and often has dresses hanging outside his business.
Amoroso denies calling code. “He had issues prior to code even coming out,” he says. “He sat on my bench in front of my store drinking coffee saying he wanted to set up at the Peters Development property (603 Lake Avenue) during the Festival. I told him he wasn’t allowed to, but I wasn’t mean or rude.”
On Saturday’s Festival day, Schlitz said organizers put two tents in front of Artsy Fartsy, almost blocking the store entrance. “They had the audacity to do that just to hurt me,” Schlitz says.
Schlitz said he made only $10,000 for the festival, well below what he made last year. “I’m leaving because I can’t win,” he says. “How can I do business in a city when we have a commissioner sending code after me for doing exactly what he does? I don’t think it’s right.”
So, what’s next?
Schlitz, 48, divorced with a daughter and grandson, planned to move to Clematis Street, but the rents are too high and he couldn’t afford to pay after the money he made at the Festival. “I tried renegotiating, but they’re not budging,” he says. “Unfortunately I will have to start selling my goods online and take my show on the road.”
He says he has heart disease and can’t afford to work too hard. “I can’t do normal work,” he says. “But why would I keep spending money in this city? I’ve done nothing but try to do right in Lake Worth.”