Friday, April 20, 2018
News Roundup

Tampa council takes no action on new rules for Ybor City nightclubs

TAMPA — The City Council spent about 90 minutes Thursday talking, yet again, about the idea of writing new regulations for Ybor City nightclubs.

And, yet again, it ended up hitting the pause button.

One reason: Ybor City's business community, which had coalesced around the idea of beefing up regulations for nightclubs, on Thursday showed up in force to oppose a proposed ordinance that would do just that.

Yes, bar owners said, the historic district has had its problems, but things are better now.

"We were able to get rid of the bad operators," longtime Ybor businessman Alan Kahana said. "We don't need another ordinance that's going to single out Ybor City"

At issue was a draft ordinance proposing five characteristics that would serve to define what a nightclub is. They included collecting a cover charge, requiring a drink minimum or having a dance floor. About 20 Ybor establishments have the 250- to 2,500-customer capacity the ordinance was written to address.

Those clubs would have been required to pay a fee of about $50 to obtain city permits and provide employees with crowd management training.

The city would have had the authority to suspend or revoke the permit if, in a 12-month period, a club had two instances of drug felonies, gun violations, violent crime or sales of alcohol to minors, or four instances of criminal possession of marijuana within six months.

A club that had its permit suspended would have had to hire extra-duty police officers to augment its security.

But bar owners worried they could be suspended if they worked with police and reported problems on their premises. Several council members were sympathetic, suggesting it would make more sense to focus on the actions of employees who are more under the bar owner's control.

Thursday's discussion was the latest in a debate going back more than two years. It started in late 2011 after shootings killed one man and wounded six more at two nightclubs — both now closed — in or near Ybor City.

On Thursday, most council members seemed willing to wait at least until April 24, when they are scheduled to hold a much more wide-ranging workshop on alcohol sales.

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