Crabby’s Corner ice cream and shaved ice shop has been sitting idle since about a week after it opened in April but owners say they hope a Town of Bluffton meeting Tuesday will change that.
Chris Johnston, co-owner of the shop, said he will be asking for a variance at the Board of Zoning Appeals on Tuesday. The variance would allow for prepared food to be served at the shop located on Lawton Street.
Town officials ordered the shop closed after learning that ice cream and shaved ice was being sold at the site, Johnston said. He said he didn’t realize that scooping ice cream and serving shaved ice was considered “prepared” food at the time.
It seems Town officials also were uncertain of the definition of “prepared”.
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Heather Colin, director of growth management with the town, said the shop was allowed to continue selling shaved ice for about a week while Town staff researched if it was considered prepared food. Town staff later determined that both items were considered prepared food, she said.
Crabby’s Corner currently is “preparing” the ice cream by scooping it into single serve containers at another site and then selling them at the Lawton location. Since the scooping of the ice cream happens somewhere else, the sold containers are not considered prepared food, Colin said.
Johnston said the shop doesn’t have a solution for selling the shaved ice. He also said the quality of the ice cream is decreased when it is not scooped fresh for customers.
“It is getting harder everyday without Crabby’s Corner,” Johnston said. “That was a huge part of our business and they took that away.”
Johnston also co-owns Mameem & Maudie out of the same location. He said the building was purchased in 2015 with the intent to run a cafe from the location. At that time, prepared food was allowed in the district where the shop sits, according to the town’s agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
Two months after Johnston purchased the property, the Town changed the zoning, the agenda also says. The change disallowed the sale of prepared food.
The intent was to run a cafe and business owners are suffering without it, Johnston said. Yet, he said they felt they could make up some of the loss by selling the ice cream and shaved ice.
“At the end of the day, we would have never paid the money that I paid if we would have know that the law was going to change,” Johnston said.
The ice cream shop has started a petition asking for support from the community prior to the meeting set for 6 p.m. at Town Hall, 20 Bridge Street.