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OLDSMAR BACKS PINELLAS TO ALLOW ALCOHOL SALES FOR AN EXTRA HOUR

Bar patrons already have the option of driving into Hillsborough, where the cutoff is 3 a.m.

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.

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.

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 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."

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."

Reach Rodney Thrash at rthrash@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4167.

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