New bar regulations passed to help downtown St. Pete's security

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New bar regulations were passed 6-2 by City Council Thursday to help with security in downtown Saint 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.

Via William Mansell of Patch.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.