Orlando leaders advance plan to add restrictions for bars, nightclubs downtown
ORLANDO, Fla. —
Orlando leaders met Monday to talk about possible new rules for bars and nightclubs downtown.
The two proposed ordinances passed on a first reading, but they still have to go to a second reading in March.
Bar and nightclub owners say they have offered solutions that would not put such a strain on their wallets.
“Come up with some ideas. If you don’t come up with ideas, we are going to make it with just what we got,” District 3 Commissioner Robert Stuart said to business owners.
Their solution was a pair of ordinances that requires bar and nightclub owners to purchase permits for serving alcohol after midnight and providing their own policing like installing metal detectors or hiring security, to name a few.
To improve safety downtown, the city has used funds from the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) to pay more off-duty police officers extra money to patrol the streets. The move has kept a string of shootings and crime lower in recent months, but at a cost the city says they can’t bear alone.
“It is $40,000 a weekend, for us, out of the CRA. That is not really sustainable,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said.
But many business owners agree the ordinances put too much of a strain on businesses trying to make a profit and adequately pay their employees.
“It unfairly penalizes just a few operators to the tunes of hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars a year to police the streets,” Orlando Hospitality Alliance Vice President Monica McCown said.
For years, she said businesses have talked with the mayor and the city about solutions. One of those solutions is to hire 30 specially trained officers to work specifically downtown rather than pay off-duty cops overtime. She says that suggestion came from a 2016 study by industry experts known as the “hospitality zone assessment” that was conducted by the city.
“For what we are paying now to do enhanced policing three nights a week, we could pay for the entire squad,” she said.
McCown says that’s based on a study the city conducted in 2016 from industry experts.
Commissioners appreciate the handful of businesses that have offered solutions, but they say more need to get involved.
“I’m still hopeful that we can still sit at the table and come up with a good fix for this,” District 2 Commissioner Tony Ortiz said.