Brewers hope Fla. lawmakers pass craft beer bill

Craft breweries in Florida are hoping new legislation will help them in their fight against big beer businesses. 
Under current Florida law, craft breweries are required to work through a distributor to market their products.  
Bill 107 would allow small tap rooms in the state to cut ties to big distributors and sell their products independently.  Thirty-seven states already allow craft breweries to do this.  
The proposal would also allow pre-packaged beer to be sold off-site at local convenience stores.
“They’ve had the upper hand for a while, and in most states, there’s more of a partnership,” said Jennifer Gratz, owner of Fort Myers Brewing Company.  “We hope the legislature will take some action to kind of level the playing field — so to speak.”    
We spoke with Far Point Brewing Company in Punta Gorda earlier this week.  They are optimistic the bill will pass.
The 2015 session of the Florida legislature gets underway March 3rd.  

More Spring Breakers expected in SWFL this year

Fort Myers Beach is about to get a lot busier. As of Saturday, Spring Break is back.

That means big business for hotels, restaurants and shops. It also means stop-and-go traffic is on the way. The next several weeks mean a lot to Lee County’s bottom line.

“We definitely wanted the warm sun…coming from home where it is -2 degrees today,” said Gianni Dilisio, Spring Breaker.

Michigan natives Gianna Dilisio and her best friend Kelsey Bricker are on Spring Break.

“Lots of handsome boys here,” said Bricker.

The pair is part of many to call Fort Myers Beach home for a week. The hub of the Spring Break action in Southwest Florida is the Lani Kai Island Resort.

“The hotel is booked up for the month. We have our security staff in place,” said Larry Pucceia, general manager of the Lani Kai.

Pucceia and his employees don’t mind the rush of college students who are trading the book for sun to hang out in Southwest Florida.

“Everybody thinks the kids come down here to cause trouble. They don’t,” said Pucceia.

Lee County deputies had their worst year in 2007 — when they arrested 67 people for underage drinking. In 2013, they had 18 arrests.

The month of March wraps up the first quarter of the year for the Lee County Visitors & Convention Bureau. Last year the county saw a total revenue impact of $62 million — just in the first quarter. The previous year, officials recorded $60 million.

This time of year has a big impact on business.

“Busier and busier every year,” said Josephine Furnari, H20 T-shirt shop worker.

Furnari works at H20 near Times Square — where many students like to purchase souvenir T-shirts. She’s expecting more sales this year.

A spokesperson with the Lee County VCB tells us they market the county as a Spring Break destination for families. They don’t target college students. But students say the weather is enough to lure them here.

We are expecting to learn whether this first quarter was successful sometime this Spring.

The county depends on these tourism tax dollars to continue to lure people to Southwest Florida — just like they did with the multi-million dollar renovation of the Minnesota Twins’ Spring Training home.


Two F-18s make unexpected landing at Naples airport

Two F-18s made an unexpected landing at the Naples Municipal Airport on Saturday. 
According to airport authority officials, the Navy fighter jets left from Key West.  The lead aircraft saw a warning light turn on.  The F-18s landed at the nearest airfield — which was the Naples Municipal Airport. 
The pilots are spending the night in Naples as they wait for Naval maintenance crews to arrive. 
Naples Airport Authority officials say this is a rare occurrence. 

Pipe burst displaces 8 families in Naples apartment complex

Eight families in Naples are out of a home after a major flood left heavy damage in their apartments.  Many of those residents say it was all caused by the apartment complex’s failure to deal with the issue. 

“Water was just pouring down from the wall like rain,” said Innocine Milfort. 

Milfort was describing the rushing flood waters that woke her up early Saturday.

“The whole house flooded,” said Milfort. 

Milfort was just one of dozens of people at the Windsong Apartments on Immokalee Road who have nowhere to sleep Saturday night.  A pipe burst early Saturday morning flooded eight units in the building.  But, the problem didn’t start on Saturday.

One resident says she called management on Thursday about a small leak.  Nothing was done.  Several other tenants say they reported the problem too.  They say management eventually came and looked at the leaks, but didn’t fix it.  

Now, many of the residents are paying the price.   

We went looking for answers.  Just before our cameras starting rolling, management said they were working on the problem.  Their maintenance workers were sopping up the water for most of the day.  But, their efforts came too late.

Residents we spoke with say they do not have insurance.  They were told the Red Cross is not able to help because this is not the type of disaster they assist with.


Rollover crash on I-75 in Collier Co.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers are investigating a rollover crash that occurred on I-75 near MM 114 Saturday morning. 

According to FHP’s website, the crash happened around 11:06 a.m. 

A truck was heading south on I-75 when the vehicle lost control and overturned into the median.  Three people were inside the truck at the time.  No one was injured in the crash. 


Fort Myers woman killed in San Carlos Blvd. crash

A 52-year-old Fort Myers woman is dead after getting hit by a pickup truck on San Carlos Boulevard Friday night. 
The crash happened on San Carlos Boulevard near Seagull Drive around 10:17 p.m. 
According to Florida Highway Patrol, a pickup truck was going north on San Carlos Boulevard when for an unknown reason a woman walked into the path of the truck.
The truck driver, identified as 60-year-old Daniel Dom Mezzanotte of Fort Myers, failed to see the woman.  The front left side of truck struck the woman.  She was taken to Health Park Hospital and pronounced dead. 
According to arrest records, Mezzanotte was charged with DUI and held on $1000 bond. He remains in jail while the investigation continues. The identity of the victim has not been released pending notification of next-of-kin.

FGCU students transform into superheroes for sick children

Four Florida Gulf Coast University students became superheroes this week. This was in part, because they dressed for the roles, but mostly because they used their powers to visit sick children at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Lee County.

“It was so cool. I saw Batman, Spiderman, Superman, and Robin,” said nine-year-old Elayshia, who doctors said wouldn’t live past her 5th birthday.

She was totally surprised to see the four heroes walk into her hospital room.

FGCU fraternity brothers were behind the masks. They say they love community service as much as they love superheroes.

Cynthia Johnson happened to spot them in their costumes on their way out of the hospital. She asked if they would make time for one more visit. Her two-year-old son Derek has a rare disorder that brings him to the hospital often.

“I said, ‘Would you mind coming to see my son?’ and they jumped on it. They were super, super excited,” said Johnson. “I don’t think they understand how much it means to the kids and the parents.”

If you ask the superheroes it meant a lot to them too, and they plan to make more visits in the future.

FGCU Student Ivan Rodriguez said, “They’re brave, so strong and I felt like they were the superheroes. I wanted to ask for their autographs because those kids are amazing.”


Clam Bake Restaurant to be featured on NESN ‘Dining Playbook’

Boston Red Sox Spring Training is in full swing and people are flocking to Fort Myers to see the team in action.  But, it’s not just drawing fans. 
National medial is coming to Southwest Florida.  We’re learning they’re highlighting more than just the games. 
“We had about an hour wait, but it’s worth it,” Clam Bake Restaurant customer Ed Goett said. 
Tucked away off US-41 in Fort Myers sits the perfect retreat for those wanting a taste of New England.  
“Everything is flown from Ipswitch shellfish in Massachusetts,” co-owner of Clam Bake Restaurant Mark Thomas said.  “It’s all fresh.  We get it in three or four times a week.”
“It reminds me of home,” Clam Bake Restaurant customer Charles Cawlina said. 
And that feeling of home is what draws hundreds every night.  

“It’s New England in the south. It really is,” Cawlina said.

It’s a secret that’s now even drawing media from up north.

“If it wasn’t for all of my customers here, it wouldn’t have happened,” co-owner of Clam Bake Restaurant Laurie Thomas said. 

New England Sports Network or NESN chose the Clam Bake as a restaurant to highlight on their showing “Dining Playbook.”

“Why not come here and tell New Englanders, look when you come to Fort Myers for a spring training game you can also have a taste of New England,” ‘Dining Playbook’ host Billy Costa said.

Hosts Billy Costa and Jenny Johnson tasted the food, talked with customers and in just over a week they’ll share this hidden gem with their fans.

“They have that New England feel that we feel so comfortable with,” ‘Dining Playbook’ host Jenny Johnson said. “Of course we came here and this was one of the places that we were most excited to feature on ‘Dining Playbook’.”

It’s something the people of Fort Myers have known about for a wicked long time.

“You have to go fight the snow storm up in Boston to get something similar to this,” Goett said.

NESN is highlighting other Fort Myer’s restaurants and hotels on upcoming episodes. The episode featuring the Clam Bake Restaurant will premier on Saturday, March 7th.


Lee deputy shoots dog after getting attacked

A Lee County Sheriff’s deputy says he was forced to shoot a Pit bull that got loose and attacked him.  
Thursday wasn’t the first time animal control officer were called to the house in the 4900 block of 24th Street S.W. in Lehigh Acres.  But things got out of hand soon after deputies arrived.
Alexis Esquivel was having a typical day Thursday — busy picking up her kids from the bus stop on 24th Street S.W. in Lehigh Acres.  That is until she walked by her neighbor’s house — where the family’s 50-pound Pit bull had broken free. 
“She was barking and growling, so I went to notify the neighbors,” said Esquivel. 
When they weren’t home, she called the Lee County Sheriff’s Office — who quickly sent a deputy to check it out.  Things didn’t end well. 
“The dog bit him, and he ended up having to shoot her,” said neighbor Alexis Esquivel.  “I don’t know if she got off the leash or what, but their fence in the back is all torn down.” 
The torn down fence isn’t the only one failing to keep neighborhood pets at bay.  One man we spoke with, who had family visit from overseas last year, tells us they were attacked by a loose dog.
“They just walk around [and] just liked being in Florida.  But they had a bad experience.  They experiences the dogs loose and attacking them,” said neighbor Greg Skiba.
Skiba thinks more needs to be done to remind dog owners that Lee County law requires pets to be on a leash at all times outside.  
“I don’t think it’s enough.  I think there should be more protection here.  If people get the sense the area is being watched, people would be more protected,” said Skiba.
Long-time resident Connie Limon feels the same way. 
“I always worry about it because I like to go for a walk, and I’ve heard other neighbors had had trouble with dogs.  You know the area, but certain roads you stay away from,” said neighbor Connie Limon.
Esquivel says as a dog owner herself, she’s sad to hear the Pit bull passed away.  But she knows she has to think about her kids first. 
“I have my kids that get off the bus and other kids who play out here in the street.  It’s just very worrisome if the dog gets out and bites one of my kids or bites someone else’s kid,” said Esquivel. 
The Lee County Sheriff’s Office says the deputy involved did all he could to avoid shooting the dog.  The case remains under investigation.  The deputy in question remains on active duty.     

Is there a Hawaii without hotels?

The island nation of Vanuatu has all the trappings of paradise, without the luxury hotels and resorts (for now). Bill Weir caught up with guide and photojournalist, Jimmy Nelson, to look back at their extraordinary experiences on these extraordinary islands. 

Watch the video above to see the islands.