Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Clearwater votes to let bars to stay open until 3 a.m.

CLEARWATER — The owner of a place called the Monkey Bar drove to City Hall to appear before the City Council and state his position. So did the owners of Park Place Billiards, Shephard's Beach Resort and Tommy Duff's Irish Aviation Pub.

Different kinds of bars, but they all wanted the same thing: the right to stay open later.

The bar owners convinced the council Wednesday night to extend bar hours in Clearwater to 3 a.m., even though officials had been leaning toward mandating a 2 a.m. closing time.

Bar owners and bartenders made the case that a 2 a.m. cutoff time would put them at a competitive disadvantage because neighboring cities like Largo are going with 3 a.m., following the late-night example of St. Petersburg and Tampa.

"They can drive down the road 5 or 10 minutes and go to another bar," said Joey Maida, who manages his family's business, Park Place Billiards.

Several bars said they're already struggling to keep their doors open in this economy. And owners of Clearwater Beach locations said tourists — especially Europeans — who vacation at the beach are accustomed to establishments staying open later.

But what really convinced the City Council was the fear that bar patrons would end up driving drunk across city limits to get to another bar after closing time. Or they'd leave Clearwater so they could drink later, then they'd return at the end of the night.

"As I have seen the surrounding cities go with 3 a.m., I am more concerned about people driving out of Clearwater and driving back," said Mayor Frank Hibbard.

"If we're 2 o'clock and everybody else is 3 o'clock, I'm concerned that we're actually worse off," added council member Paul Gibson.

Another factor was that Clearwater Police Chief Tony Holloway had no objections to a 3 a.m. cutoff.

Clearwater has 108 bars, the chief said, and police calls tend to spike around closing time. But a later closing time would just mean that he'd have to adjust some officers' shifts a bit.

City Council members plan to revisit this issue in a year to review whether drunk driving and other alcohol-related incidents have increased due to the change.

This is all happening because in late July, Pinellas County extended bar hours to 3 a.m. countywide. Pinellas cities that want to keep closing time at 2 a.m. must pass local laws limiting bar hours in their jurisdictions.

Tarpon Springs commissioners voted last week for 2 a.m. Largo commissioners voted Tuesday night for 3 a.m. Dunedin commissioners on Thursday voted for 3 a.m. on first reading. A final vote will come next month.

In Clearwater, 16 members of the public spoke at Wednesday night's meeting on behalf of a 3 a.m. closing time. The Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce both argued for it.

No one spoke for 2 a.m.

Reach Mike Brassfield at or (727) 445-4160.

Closing time scorecard

Pinellas County extended bar hours to 3 a.m. countywide in late July. Pinellas cities that want to keep closing time at 2 a.m. must pass local laws limiting bar hours. Here are times in Tampa Bay's largest cities and those in mid and north Pinellas:

Clearwater3 a.m.
Largo3 a.m.
Oldsmar3 a.m.

2 a.m.

3 a.m.
Tampa3 a.m.
Tarpon Springs2 a.m.

Clearwater votes to let bars to stay open until 3 a.m. 08/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, August 20, 2010 6:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pinellas receives two charter school applications


    Following a two-year dry spell, the Pinellas County school district has received two new applications to open charter schools in St. Petersburg.

    Windsor Preparatory Academy in St. Petersburg could be home to Pinellas Academy of Math and Science's St. Petersburg campus. The Pinellas County school district received a charter school application from that school's leadership this fall to open in 2018.
  2. Southern Heritage group draws fire for posting personal information of Confederate statue opponents


    TAMPA — Curtiss Wilson is an 89-year-old Tampa resident who fought in the civil rights movement.

    A report by Save Southern Heritage Florida includes the "affiliation" of more than 100 people who spoke at the July 19 commission meeting in favor of removing  the Confederate monument from in front of the old county courthouse in Tampa. People on the list say the report was meant to intimidate and harrass opponents of the monument. Save Southern Heritage director Doug Guetzloe said the report is "opposition research" meant to to inform elected officials about who was speaking on the issue.
[Save Southern Heritage Florida]
  3. Gen. Votel interview: 'A bit of a stalemate' in Afghanistan, but a chance to optimize gains there


    In developing the plan for the war in Afghanistan that he announced Monday night, President Donald Trump consulted with advisers including his military leaders throyugh their chain of command.

  4. Water Street Tampa unveils illustrations showing downtown's transformation


    TAMPA — Water Street Tampa, the sweeping, 50-plus acre redevelopment project in Tampa's urban core, has unveiled new images and video of what the downtown district will look like upon completion.

    Strategic Property Partners released a conceptual image of what the Tampa skyline will look like once its redevelopment of 50-plus acres of downtown will look like. [Photo courtesy of  of SPP]
  5. Bill Nelson shares Rick Scott's cautious stance on Confederate monuments


    On the issue of Confederate monuments, Sen. Bill Nelson is taking the cautious route of Gov. Rick Scott.