As Orlando city leaders consider adopting new restrictions on downtown Orlando nightlife that have garnered strong opposition from local business operators, the City District (the Main Street District for downtown Orlando) has launched its own survey to gather community feedback on safety improvement solutions.
The 18-question survey launched Friday was developed to allow community members, including local residents and community stakeholders, the opportunity to share their own ideas for addressing downtown safety concerns, according to the City District, while taking into consideration the needs of the City Beautiful's downtown workforce, businesses and visitors.
The online survey has been open for several days now, with about 900 survey responses so far, City District leadership confirmed to Orlando Weekly.
According to the City District, survey results will be made public after the survey closes on Feb. 28. Their plan is to analyze and present the findings to Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer and city commissioners before their second vote in March on proposed rules that'd affect the operations of downtown Orlando's nightlife scene.
Those proposed changes, aka the After Midnight Alcohol Sales Permit ordinance, include a six-month moratorium on the opening of new nightclubs and a new permit requirement for alcohol sales after midnight in the downtown entertainment district.
Applications for a permit to sell liquor between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m. would cost $250. Obtaining a permit would also come with added security requirements, including police protection, which isn't cheap.
Dave Green, a board member of the Orlando Hospitality Alliance, told the Orlando Business Journal that some of their group's members already spend $750,000 to $1 million on off-duty police protection per year. Off-duty, or extra-duty, cops can cost upwards of $90 per hour. Smaller nightlife operators and downtown business owners may not have the budget to hire additional security and police protection, and some worry their business could suffer as a result.
“I'm very concerned with this particular bill that we’ll be in a position where it could actually impact our business to the point that we are going to lose a considerable amount of money," Caroline Harvey, co-owner of Jam-Eng on Orange Avenue, told city leaders during their initial discussion of the proposed nightlife changes on Jan. 23.
The Orlando Police Department told the mayor and city commission their own security efforts downtown, enhanced after a shooting last summer, are becoming financially unsustainable. Orlando Police chief Eric Smith said the department is spending $40,000 each weekend, a price tag that includes the cost of off-duty and ordered officers.
"The crime has almost doubled after midnight," said Chief Smith. "Weapons violations, shootings, fights, officers getting hit. It's not what we need for downtown."
But some critics of the new regulations say crime isn't worse downtown than it is in some other parts of Orlando. "I myself attend events, concerts, sporting events, and club nights throughout downtown because I feel safer here than anywhere else in the city,” Brittany Graham, a local event planner and promoter, told city leaders last month.
And many business operators felt blindsided by the proposed changes. "We are still very confused on what has passed in October on the noise ordinances," Kate Clodfelter, director of live music for Foundation Presents, shared with city leaders. "And it's very frustrating and stressful as an operator trying to run a business that brings real value to the community I love," Clodfelter added.
Orlando city commissioners and mayor Dyer are holding a second hearing on the After Midnight Alcohol Sales Ordinance on March 20. The first time around, the ordinance received unanimous approval, after some discussion on how to better gather feedback from those whose business stands to be affected by the changes.
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