UPDATE: You can watch today’s Council Meeting on YouTube HERE. Both ordinances passed their readings.
City Commissioners are poised to vote on two contentious ordinances that would severely restrict the sale of alcohol in the Central Business District/Downtown Entertainment Area.
We told you HERE that a set of proposed ordinances had passed their first reading with the City of Orlando after being workshopped with downtown operators for just a week before hitting City Council. If passed, one ordinance would place a moratorium on any new bars or nightclubs opening downtown over a six-month period, and another would require bars that serve liquor after midnight with occupancies of at least 125 people to have a special late-night operating permit and to hire off-duty police officers and licensed security guards at their own expense.
Those ordinances are seen as needed changes by the City of Orlando in shifting the downtown core away from nighttime drink uses and the higher crime it allegedly attracts. The City of Orlando and Orlando Police are looking to shift the cost of added police officers downtown away from the Community Redevelopment Agency and onto downtown late-night operators.
Some of the larger clubs with higher capacities would be required to hire three off-duty officers at a rate of $90/hour, which adds up quickly. Scott Kotroba, a partner in a group that owns and operates a number of venues downtown, including Bullitt Bar, Crow and Co Bar, Papi’s Smash Burgers, and McQueens Social Lounge, shared the following in a prepared statement.
“The idea to lower the venues to pay based on the occupancy of 150 to 125 is one of the most arbitrary things I have witnessed. This haphazard decision to be kind to the very large venues and reduce the occupancy from 150 to 125 is costing our business $84,000/yr. The very large venues complained that the smaller venues should also share the cost… but why was 125 the number? There is no math or accounting to justify that number beside it just being a lower number than 150. Why not everyone? Why not occupancy of 100? Why not occupancy of 138? This is way to arbitrary to affect a business in such a massive way.“– SCOTT KOTROBA
The Downtown Orlando Partnership, essentially a business association for the Central Business District, issued a Business Assessment survey in mid-February to solicit feedback on the proposed ordinances and found that 70% of its respondents supported a temporary moratorium on new nightclub and bar licenses and 72% supported the implementation of the after-midnight alcohol sales permit. Just 34% of those participants in the survey were classified as business owners, with the majority being employees who are in the downtown core from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. on weekdays.
The City District Main Street shared a similar survey, though opened to the public, and geared it towards overall perceptions of safety downtown. The City District Main Street Safety Survey saw that there were two top concerns among business owners, residents, and downtown workers; safety and homelessness. According to survey results, all respondents felt unsafe downtown between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
As is, the ordinances are flagged to be approved by City Council at today’s second reading. City staff will then review the impact of the ordinances after 18 months.