Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa could consider ban on patrons younger than 21 at nightclubs

TAMPA — In the wake of shootings at two clubs late last year, the Tampa City Council Thursday voted to explore new, tougher regulations on nightclubs, including a possible ban on patrons younger than 21.

Tampa clubs currently can admit customers who are 18 to 20 years old, but cannot serve them alcohol.

After hearing from an assistant city attorney that the city has the legal authority to prohibit the younger customers from the clubs, council members asked city staff to work up a range of options they can consider on May 24.

One nightclub owner said he would oppose any rule that banned 18-year-olds from his premises.

"I think they need places to go instead of hanging out on the corner," Club Manilla landlord Fred Schwartz told the council.

"I agree with you: people 18 years old need somewhere to go," council member Lisa Montelione responded, but not a place that serves drinks to adults into the wee hours of the morning. "That's inviting trouble."

The council had asked for a report on what new nightclub regulations it could create after a shooting in November that wounded five men at Club Manilla, at 2620 E Seventh Ave., east of the Ybor City entertainment district.

Council members' concerns also were fueled by the fatal shooting of 20-year-old Leslie Jones Jr. at Ybor City's once-notorious Empire Night Club on Oct. 2. A second man, Ahmaud Black, 19, was shot in the chest and seriously wounded. After the shooting, Jones' mother Sharon began protesting in front of the club. Attendance dropped dramatically, and Empire closed after Guavaween.

Council members aren't alone in their concerns.

The board of the Ybor City Development Corporation recently endorsed the idea of more closely regulating nightclubs, said Vince Pardo, the corporation's manager. A broad range of Ybor stakeholders, including both businesses and residents, support trying to get a better handle on "high risk" establishments, the large clubs that stay open past midnight and cater to 18, 19 and 20 year olds, he said.

About 20 communities across Florida have some sort of regulation prohibiting patrons younger than 21 in nightclubs, Assistant City Attorney Rebecca Kert said.

"There's many other options that you can consider," she said, "and it will be up to you to balance the burden on the business that's being regulated with the benefit that will be given to the community as a whole."

The top priority for police, she said, would be to require larger clubs to hire more extra-duty officers to help keep the peace. Since 1995, the city has required clubs with permitted occupancies of 250 or more to hire two extra-duty officers, but Kert said there's no additional requirement if the club's capacity reaches, say, 1,000.

That 1995 rule has a couple of other problems, she said. One, it only applied to new alcohol beverage approvals — previously known as "wet zonings" — granted under city land-use regulations. That meant that clubs that got their wet-zonings before 1995 were grandfathered in and did not have to hire any extra-duty officers, no matter how big they were.

Also, the 1995 rule applies only to clubs in Ybor City, Channelside or downtown.

With any new regulations, Kert suggested that the city consider writing them under its codes for business regulation, not land use. That would mean no business would be grandfathered. Also, it could require nightclubs to apply for a business permit or license that had to be renewed annually. Clubs that broke the rules could face not having their permits renewed or could see them revoked after a hearing.

But that's not all. In some places, bouncers are required to be licensed by the state, Kert said. While Florida's licensing system does not have a bouncer category, she noted that it does have categories for security officers, which means that the person doing the job would have to be vetted by the state with a background check.

The city also could charge a fee for the nightclub permit that would generate enough revenue to cover the cost of enforcing the rules. It could require a manager be on duty so that if there were any violations there would be someone to hold accountable. And it could tie getting the permit to going through crowd management training done by the Tampa Fire Marshal's Office.

"There are many different options to how you can do this," Kert said. "Those will be the policy decisions."

While council members made no commitments, they do want to know more about their options, including the possible ban on customers younger than 21.

"I don't think having 18-year-olds, 19-year-olds, 20-year-olds in an establishment after 11 o'clock at night where alcohol is being served is a good idea," Montelione said.

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected], (813) 226-3403 or @Danielson_Times on Twitter.

Comments
Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

Carlos Gomez says he was guilty of only one thing in Sunday’s epic walkoff homer celebration

BALTIMORE – Carlos Gomez is perfectly willing to explain the specific elements that went into his epic celebration tour around the bases following Sunday's walkoff home run.The bat flip and raised arms were his initial reaction to how well he h...
Updated: 15 minutes ago

High school scoreboard for April 24

Tuesday’s scoreboardBaseballCalvary Chr. 8, Jesuit 1Boys TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, King 1Girls TennisClass 3A, District 9-10 Regional Semifinal: Osceola 4, Freedom 1...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

Days before graduation, crash kills Lakewood High senior, injures two others

ST. PETERSBURG — Caps and gowns were in the future for Bryson Welton-Williams and his two friends.Then came Tuesday’s horrific car crash.The three 18-year-old Lakewood High School seniors drove off from school a few minutes early, just 22 days away f...
Updated: 3 hours ago
SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

SRO being investigated in Pasco County for arrest of student

LAND O’LAKES — A school resource officer at Sunlake High School is under investigation after he tried to take a female student into custody on Tuesday, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.School officials asked the SRO remove the student f...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Teen killed after SUV runs red light; man who fled scene captured

Teen killed after SUV runs red light; man who fled scene captured

NEW PORT RICHEY — A 17-year-old girl was killed Tuesday when her car was hit by a sport-utility vehicle that ran a red light, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.One of the occupants of the SUV who ran from the crash scene was captured hours late...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Softball: Haley Murphy, East Bay back in top form

Softball: Haley Murphy, East Bay back in top form

PLANT CITY — East Bay senior Haley Murphy had to take a few games off early this season to give the flaring tendinitis in her left knee a rest.When Murphy did come back around midseason, East Bay coach Glenn Rodriguez eased her into the fl...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

Sarasota student, family apologize for racist ‘promposal’

The family of the 18-year-old Sarasota high school student under fire for the racist prom proposal he sent out on social media this weekend has publicly apologized for their son’s actions.They also said that as a result of his actions, he will not at...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Softball: Boca Ciega gets a shot at defending district champ

DUNEDIN — Standing in centerfield during her team's Class 6A-9 district semifinal Tuesday night, Boca Ciega's Mia Blasingane had one dominating thought: "We want Tarpon Springs real bad. I was saying that to myself. I want to see Tarpon Springs...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Softball: Alonso knocks off defending state finalist PHU in 9A-8 semifinals

PALM HARBOR — To get an idea of just how tough the competition is in Class 9A, District 8, consider that there has been a different tournament champion each of the past three seasons.All three — Newsome (2015), Alonso (2016) and Palm Harb...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays Journal: On the early rainout, pitching plans, medical matters, more

Rays Journal: On the early rainout, pitching plans, medical matters, more

BALTIMORE – If the Rays were going to get rained out Tuesday, they were happy  the Orioles made the decision at a good hour, around 5 p.m."I think they probably did the right thing in the fact that they knew there's a bunch of rain coming,...
Updated: 3 hours ago