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We're losing business to St. Pete, Largo bar owners say

After St. Petersburg extended its alcohol sales hours from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m., the move was heralded as a boon for bars in the city.

Elsewhere in the county, including Largo, some bar owners say they also have been affected, but in the opposite way.

"We're losing business to St. Pete. Everybody's down there," said Nancy Boostedt, owner of Whiskey Depot in Largo.

Boostedt, whose sports-themed bar has been in business for 19 years, said bars that cater to younger bar-goers have been the most severely affected.

But now, as the county is considering extending alcohol sales to 3 a.m. as well, bars in Largo might be able to add another hour until closing time.

"I love the idea," Boostedt said.

While city commissioners didn't embrace the idea with that much enthusiasm, a majority said Tuesday that if the county passes the later alcohol sales ordinance, they would like to see Largo follow suit.

"If the county changes theirs to 3 a.m., I would like to see us do the same thing. Just a fact: People do jump in their car and drive to the next jurisdiction," Mayor Patricia Gerard said. "I just know, because back in the day — a long time ago — I might have done the same thing myself.

"It behooves us to not have those people on our streets not driving any further than they need to."

Assistant city attorney Mary Hale said either way, the decision would impact a limited number of businesses. "I think in some cities, including Largo, you don't find we have many of the establishments that would be effected," Hale said.

While far from the county's nightlife hub, Largo is home to dozens of bars and pubs.

Vice Mayor Woody Brown said one bar owner has contacted him about extending Largo's alcohol sales time.

"I actually did have a business owner from Largo, shortly after St. Petersburg went to 3 a.m., come to my office and tell me that his business was down significantly for those first couple weekends," Brown said. "I think it would help our establishments here."

Commissioners Mary Gray Black and Gigi Arntzen both said they would not support an extension.

"Just a personal standpoint, I don't think it's a good idea. It will probably pass, but I don't think it's a good idea," Arntzen said.

Largo police Chief John Carroll said in an e-mail to commissioners last week that he would support a drinking hours extension in Largo if the county went ahead with its own extension.

Carroll said a uniform policy would be easier to enforce and result in less public confusion, and perhaps prevent some bar-goers from driving elsewhere for drinks.

Dominick Tao can be reached at dtao@sptimes.com or (727) 580-2951.

We're losing business to St. Pete, Largo bar owners say 07/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, July 9, 2010 4:32pm]
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