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Oldsmar backs later hour for alcohol sales

OLDSMAR — If Pinellas County extends alcohol sales from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m., Oldsmar will support it.

"It doesn't matter what time you make it," Mayor Jim Ronecker said during Tuesday's City Council meeting. "If they're going to drive drunk, they're going to drive drunk at 9 o'clock at night or 4 o'clock in the morning."

Bar owners have asked the County Commission to follow St. Petersburg's lead and add an extra hour of alcohol sales. (Whether St. Petersburg has the legal authority to exceed the county ordinance is an unsettled question.)

Some owners said they lost business to St. Petersburg in the first weekend of 3 a.m. sales and want the county to establish uniform hours throughout Pinellas.

County Commission Chairwoman Karen Seel requested that cities weigh in on the matter. She plans to bring the results of the poll back to the board at its July 27 meeting.

Clearwater, Dunedin and Tarpon Springs said the extra hour would put more drunken drivers on the road, but officials in Oldsmar aren't convinced that is true.

"Places that are open until 3 have more DUIs than places that are open until 2?" Council member Linda Norris asked.

"I'm not sure what the statistics would be," said Pinellas County sheriff's Deputy Rick Serra, one of Oldsmar's two community officers. "From my point of view, most of the people that are going to get that last-minute six-pack have already had enough. That's the bottom line."

St. Petersburg police saw a marked uptick in calls for service during the first weekend with longer drinking hours.

Oldsmar is in an unusual position. Unlike other Pinellas cities, portions of Oldsmar abut Hillsborough County, which already permits alcohol sales until 3 a.m.

"You can just go to the light right here at Race Track Road," Ronecker said. "Don't kid yourself if you don't think that's not happening."

If the commission approves the amendment, cities would have the option to create their own, more restrictive ordinances.

"We're not deciding anything," Ronecker said. "We're just saying, 'Hey, if the county wants to go forward, we'll move forward with you.' But if we don't want to go forward at that time, we have that ability to do so."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

Also last night

Like Oldsmar, the Largo and Treasure Island city commissions on Tuesday said they would support 3 a.m. sales if the county approved such a measure.

Oldsmar backs later hour for alcohol sales 07/07/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 7, 2010 8:20pm]
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