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Later bar hours keeping St. Petersburg officers busy

Customers at the Bishop Tavern in downtown St. Petersburg, pictured here in February, now have the chance to mingle an extra hour because of the later last call.

LARA CERRI | Times

Customers at the Bishop Tavern in downtown St. Petersburg, pictured here in February, now have the chance to mingle an extra hour because of the later last call.

ST. PETERSBURG — In the city's first weekend with longer drinking hours, police saw a marked uptick in calls for service.

They responded to 131 calls after 2 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday mornings, a 22 percent increase from the previous weekend. Those calls resulted in 38 incident reports after 2 a.m., up from 23 last weekend.

The increase validates St. Petersburg police Chief Chuck Harmon's warning to the City Council before its May 6 vote to extend bar and club closing times from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. Harmon said the extra hour would require more officers to work later into the morning because there would be more incidents.

The council approved the longer drinking hours, some questioning Harmon's caution.

"I don't see a correlation between calls of service and alcohol sales," council member Jeff Danner said at the time.

Yet with the new drinking hours in place, Harmon confirmed this week that there did appear to be a relationship between the demands on police and the later closing time.

"The early data is indicative of what I said it would be," Harmon said. "I'd need another month or two to look at it. But I would anticipate larger crowds, and I think St. Petersburg will be an attractor because the rest of Pinellas County closes earlier."

Calls for service include instances in which police receive calls for help or complaints. Officers file incident reports when they take some kind of action, whether it's checking an area out or making an arrest.

Incidents over the weekend included one on Sunday morning involving a 32-year-old man who was arrested on a charge of disorderly intoxication after refusing to leave Push Ultra Lounge about 2:54 a.m. Police said they used a Taser on the man after he fought with club security.

Minutes later, after 3 a.m., a security guard at the Rare Olive was punched in the face, police said. Officers investigated when they heard yelling and shouting from the bar. Police arrested a 26-year-old man on a charge of simple battery.

In both instances, police said, the men who were arrested refused to leave those drinking establishments — even with the later hours.

For the general public, however, the later hours didn't appear to bring about much change. Two presidents of neighborhood associations that cover the downtown area, Marilyn Olson and Emil Pavone, said they received no complaints from residents about noise.

This weekend didn't bring a huge influx of business for many downtown bars and restaurants, either.

"It wasn't as busy as I thought," said Tiffany Citek, a 23-year-old Pelican Pub bartender who worked the Thursday and Friday night shifts. "Maybe the word needs to get out. I still think in the long run it should be good overall."

Ceviche made about $3,000 with the extended hours, said Mike McVey, an assistant manager.

"We got a lot of stragglers," said McVey, who said the tapas restaurant served food until 2:30 a.m.

But other restaurants, like Bella Brava, still stopped serving food at 11, so they didn't see much more business.

"We had a good night on Saturday, but we don't think the extended hours had anything to do with it," said Carolyn Nizny, the restaurant's bar manager. "I don't think this will do too much for our business."

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

Later bar hours keeping St. Petersburg officers busy 05/18/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 18, 2010 5:00pm]

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