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New Bar Regulations Passed to Help Downtown Security

Bars that serve alcohol after midnight will now have to get an after hours permit. If bars continue to cause trouble they could be forced to hire additional security or lose their permits.

New bar regulations were passed 6-2 by City Council Thursday to help with security in downtown St. Petersburg though the regulations are for all bars within St. Pete city limits. 

The new regulations will require all establishments serving alcohol past midnight to obtain an "after hours permit". 

"This is something that the Chief and I think we need. To make sure that we have a safe and prosperous downtown," said Mayor Bill Foster Thursday.  

According to city documents, the move is necessary to ensure downtown continues to thrive while maintaining a safe environment. 

"The increase in the number of bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and other establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in the City has caused an increase in the number of people in the downtown area and other locations in the City at any given time. The downtown area is a small area with a large number of these establishments in close proximity. At night, this large concentration of establishments and greater number of persons has at times created certain negative impacts and a need for an increase in security and law enforcement personnel. The increased patronage of persons at such establishments at other locations in the City has also, at times, created certain negative impacts and a need for an increase in security and law enforcement personnel."

It will be $100 for the initial after hours permit and annual renewals will be $50. The penalty for operating an establishment after midnight without a valid permit is $500. 

Should establishments not have permits, continue to have violations or if violent crimes occur then additional security could have to be hired. For a suspendable offense, in lieu of suspension, bar may implement a security plan approved by Police Chief Chuck Harmon.

Council member Karl Nurse said new regulations are a good compromise and will help St. Petersburg. 

"I think the good actors will, understand that they can control their own security as long as they work it out where they don’t hear from us," Nurse said. "If this does become a problem they will have to put up a formal plan." 

Establishments have until the end of January to obtain a permit before being cited. Te city will notify establishment to let owners know about the changes. In addition to the permit, bars will provide at least one security officer for every 150 patrons.

Council members Leslie Curran and Wengay Newton both voted no on the new after hours permit. 

"I think it's painting everyone with a broad brush," Curran said of forcing all bars in the city to obtain permits. "I think we need to just focus on those that are the bad apples that flat out refuse to do anything." 

Two years ago the city extended bar hour closing times from 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. That move, according to Foster, made the police department adjust shifts and has increased the need for additional security. 

In 2009 less than 350 arrests were made downtown between midnight and 4 a.m. In 2011, that number was roughly 700. Last year Harmon adjusted police shifts so that less overtime hours were being clocked, but that left the force with fewer officers during daytime hours. 

Dave December 09, 2012 at 03:48 PM
This is ridiculous! Just when St Pete figures out a formula for success, the old folks in the area come in and ruin it! Isn't an increase in people coming to your downtown area and spending money something that is actually a good thing in a struggling economy? Why on earth would city that survives on it's tourism, effectively kill it's night life. Poor legislation! Those of you complaining about the noise at night time...if you want piece and quiet, then move out to the country! Why the heck would you think you were going to get piece and quiet in a down town urban environment? I live downtown and I hear sirens all night...maybe we should pass regulations to keep emergency vehicles from responding to calls after midnight.
Ryan December 09, 2012 at 04:06 PM
If 100 bucks first year and 50 thereafter will in any way inhibit the success of a bar then the owner might want to rethink his business model. It's a reasonable price to supplement the increase in visitors to the city center...though I would probably have set up a downtown zone as opposed to city wide. This might actually help the migration of young professionals to the area by increasing safety.. the alternative could be an Ybor City-like district that nobody actually wants to live in. A fair comprimise.
jeanne December 09, 2012 at 04:23 PM
@Steve, if you're unhappy with noise downtown, perhaps a move to the Suburbs would be in your best interest. In case you are unaware, all downtown's are noisy
CJ December 09, 2012 at 06:39 PM
If downtown St Pete was not successful, it would be as much fun to live in as the Campbell Park area nearby. From what I have read, it was not so long ago that downtown was headed for this sort of plight. Now, it is a very fun and relatively safe place to go virtually anytime of day or year.
Denise D December 11, 2012 at 09:43 PM
All bars everywhere are open until 2am and the city approved the 3am closing time so we could compete with Ybor, so why are they punishing the bars and restaurants that bring in revenue if they are open past 12am? How idiotic is this? And all downtown areas are noisy! Not just from music-sirens, cars, motorcycles, fireworks! Move somewhere else if you don't like the noise. Could you imagine this happenning in NYC?

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