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Tarpon Springs commissioners say no to extended alcohol hours

TARPON SPRINGS — An extra hour of selling alcoholic beverages isn't worth the hassle it would create, Tarpon Springs commissioners say.

So, at a work session Tuesday, the City Commission unanimously decided to tell Pinellas County that it doesn't want to extend the sale of alcohol from 2 to 3 a.m.

"Nothing good will happen," Commissioner Robin Saenger said. "The potential tragedies would far outweigh costwise emotionally than any little financial benefit."

Commissioner Susan Slattery agreed.

"I couldn't support this," she said. "Last call is 1:30 a.m. and you are out by 2 a.m. I preach this to my child — nothing good happens after midnight."

There also was some concern about partiers coming from neighboring Pasco County, which has a 2 a.m. cutoff for alcohol sales.

County Commissioner Karen Seel asked local municipalities to consider the extension after the county received requests to amend the countywide ordinance to allow an extension from 2 to 3 a.m. Seel plans to bring the issue back to the County Commission at its July 27 meeting.

While a countywide ordinance could allow the extension, a city could be more restrictive, Seel wrote in a memo to the county's mayors.

St. Petersburg extended its selling hours to 3 a.m. May 14.

Clearwater City Council members unanimously opposed extending the city's drinking hours June 17.

"I don't believe anything good happens between 2 and 3 a.m.," Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard said. "It's really as simple as that. We have not had an outpouring from our businesses and restaurants to expand the hours, and I think it's going to open up more drunk driving, potentially.

"And with less resources with the Police Department, that was another reason."

Capt. Bob Kochen, Tarpon's acting police chief, was against the extension. He said it would increase the probability of alcohol-related incidents. Kochen pointed to St. Petersburg to illustrate his point.

"In the first weekend with longer drinking hours, the St. Petersburg Police Department experienced a 22 percent increase in calls for service due to incidents at their local drinking establishments," Kochen wrote in a June 29 memo.

Denise Tschida, an owner of Liquors of Tarpon on S Pinellas Avenue, has been told she has the largest craft beer selection, with 360 varieties, in north Pinellas and south Pasco counties. The store, which also sells liquor, closes at midnight on weekends.

"The streets are pretty quiet around that time so there is no need for us to stay open any later," Tschida said. "If there was a demand, we'd consider it."

Nick Koulianos, owner of Lime and Coconut Grill near the Sponge Docks, said business usually slows down around midnight.

Koulianos will not remain open until 3 a.m., but he's still for the extension.

"I'm for it because it's going to bring more money to someone," he said. "I don't know who. But it will help someone."

Contact Demorris A. Lee at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

Tarpon Springs commissioners say no to extended alcohol hours 06/30/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 9:13pm]
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