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.