Tampa Considers New Closing Time For Bars

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The city of Tampa is considering big changes in how drinks are poured at bars, restaurants and nightclubs.

A draft ordinance up for consideration by the city council would roll back bar closing times from 3 a.m. to midnight, The Tampa Bay Times reports. Bars, nightclubs and other venues would be able to apply for an “extended hours” business permit to stay open later.

Businesses like convenience stores that sell alcohol for carryout would not be subject to the early closure. Bars, restaurants and nightclubs with special use permits, a form of wet-zoning in which the city council sets operating hours, would also be exempt.

The city is also considering issuing new business permits clubs with state licenses to serve drinks.

The proposed rules will be discussed at a city council meeting on Thursday. They come two years after shootings at two Ybor City-area clubs left one man dead and six wounded.

According to the ordinance, an extended-hours permit would be “a privilege, not a right,” and would have to be renewed every year.

The city could suspend or revoke a permit if the establishment lets customers drink or stays open after 3 p.m.; had any two violations of certain laws like possession of felony controlled substances within a 12-month period; or had four cases of criminal possession of marijuana within six months.

Some business owners have wondered if the proposal goes too far.

Stephen Michelini, a land-use consultant who represents many restaurants in the city, said there are many unanswered questions about a change that could “wreak havoc” on established restaurants.

“It seems to be an issue where there are some problems with very specific locations, but I don’t think the remedy for correcting them is to change the entire ordinance,” he said. “There are other means to get people’s attention.”

City council member Yvonne Yolie Capin said she recognized how economically important bars and restaurants are, and that the idea is to achieve a level of comfort through regulations that are very specific and not subjective.

“That’s very, very important,” Capin said. “I do want us to be very careful going forward.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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