DUNEDIN — Locals hoping for a later last call will have to look elsewhere.
City commissioners on Thursday opted to send a thanks-but-no-thanks to the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners, which is polling cities on whether they'd be open to alcohol sales lasting until 3 a.m.
The board will meet July 13 to discuss an ordinance that would ease the 2 a.m. restriction countywide, though cities could retain the earlier closing with a vote. Officials from Clearwater and Tarpon Springs have said they would opt out of any late-night extension. Oldsmar leaders said they would give it a try.
Commissioners said the later alcohol hours could encourage drunken drivers to cruise from city to city for a nightcap, with Commissioner Dave Carson saying the change could turn Dunedin into "Ybor City West."
Commissioner Julie Bujalski said bar patrons after 2 a.m. would be a "younger, more noisier, more boisterous group," adding the time change would create more of an annoyance to business owners than a profit.
"I think we'd have them down here scalping us," Bujalski said.
But on Thursday, Downtown Dunedin Merchants Association president Gregory Brady told the city the association supported the extension, saying it could mean bigger business for bars, restaurants, taxis and hotel rooms.
"We have been encouraging our business community to open later and stay open later," Brady wrote in an e-mail. "The activity seen around the bars and restaurants after hours can be significant."
Tampa establishments have worked under 3 a.m. closing times since 2003, a policy that St. Petersburg matched in May. But Vice Mayor Julie Scales said that the large cities and Dunedin are "just different deals."
"If people of age would only act like adults and be responsible," Carson said, "we could leave things open all night long."
Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 869-6244 or firstname.lastname@example.org .