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Downtown Security Still a Concern for Council

A proposed law would require bars serving alcohol past midnight to apply for a permit. Bar with other 200 patrons would have to hire additional security.

The shooting earlier this year at Scene Premium Night Club forced the city to take a closer look at its security policies in downtown St. Petersburg. 

Last Thursday city council, sitting as the Public Services and Infrastructure Committee, passed an ordinance that would require downtown establishments (from Bayfront to 20th Street and 5th Avenue North to 5th Avenue South) serving alcohol past midnight to apply for a permit.

A separate provision would also require bars in that zone with more than 200 patrons to hire additional security. 

While the ordinance moved out of committee does not mean it will pass a vote with council. 

Council member Jeff Danner said some of the major troublemakers downtown have less than 200 patrons while other larger spaces do not cause any trouble at all. He said the city should re-think its sidewalk cafe ordinance, which keeps a lot of bar patrons outside.

"If you continue with the sidewalk cafe, look into the amplified music," Danner said. "Even during the day, (the bars) ring out the music and it's too loud for lunch." 

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

Last Thursday Harmon said police calls for service and arrests made by police have increased significantly in that period of time. 

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. 

"It’s a good thing, drawing more people (to downtown), but its hard for us to try and manage this without getting the folks profiting on this to help us out," Harmon said. While he said no one is suggesting it, "If I had 30 more officers I could deal with it." 

Council member Jim Kennedy said he said the increased financial burden of bar owners hiring officers could be a negative impact for downtown. 

"I support the permit scenario, but I’m concerned about attempting to shift revenue sources to the private industry," Kennedy said.  

Cecelia November 13, 2012 at 01:23 PM
The street lights around The Scene Nightclub are out and have been for quite some time. Progress owns one light and I called them. It was replaced within 48 hours. As for the city, I have called and sent emails. No luck. 2nd Ave. S. which sits across from the Scene has at least 8 bulbs out. One would think if the city was this concerned about safety, replacing light bulbs would be the easiest and first thing done. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out which poles need bulbs. I marked them all with blue painters tape and told the city when I called.
Steve November 13, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Another concern is noise from music. We live five blocks from downtown, but the "boom-box-beat" of music until 2:30 every weekend night comes right through the closed window and walls of our place. Can nothing be done?
CJ November 13, 2012 at 03:27 PM
You don't move to the heartbeat of the city life and expect the peace and quiet of the country. Turn a fan on in your room and get some sleep. Don't try to spoil the fun of others. There is a lot of noise at night anywhere around here...it's not just music. There are dogs, sirens, etc. Like I said , try using a fan in your room while you sleep. It works.
cherylwithac November 13, 2012 at 03:48 PM
Steve, I sympathize with you. The answer is not to put a fan in your room. People don't need to be at bars until 3 a.m. It was a poor decision to lengthen bar hours, and now we're seeing the consequences.
KK November 13, 2012 at 05:18 PM
Who are you to say people don't need to be at the bars till 3am? Would you rather people drive drunk across the bridge at 1:30 like they used to in order to hit YBOR city nightclubs that close at 3?
Dharma November 13, 2012 at 10:27 PM
dont they pay through the nose for this and all their needs for this type of business. leave them alone. and stop the darn meter people from marking cars in downtown st petes on friday, saturday and sunday. give the people serving your businesses... a break. this town is a money eater..
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