Orlando city commission passes ordinance placing stricter definitions on nightlife destinations downtown and beyond

The ordinance aims to clarify the difference between a restaurant, bar and nightclub

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New zoning laws in place for downtown Orlando and beyond - Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons
New zoning laws in place for downtown Orlando and beyond

Orlando City Commission voted through a new ordinance on Monday that tightens up definitions of bars, restaurants and entertainment establishments downtown — and for the city at large — as part of broader moves to regulate nightlife.

This new ordinance, which passed unanimously, places stricter guidelines in the city code on what constitutes a bar, restaurant or nightclub. For many years now, bars and restaurants were treated much the same. With this measure passed, sharper distinctions are drawn between these types of businesses.

For instance, a restaurant may not charge a cover to get inside the establishment, and has to keep chairs and tables in place during operating hours.

There are new definitions for bars — businesses that garner less than 50% of income from food sales and the majority from alcohol sales, and any live entertainment there ends at midnight — and nightclubs — places with either a dance floor or that offer live entertainment and DJs after midnight — also on the books now.

The ordinance follows in the wake of a shooting near Wall Street and Orange Avenue downtown this past summer where seven people were injured. City officials have since advocated for more stringent security measures in the area, including  security checkpoints along Orange Avenue on select weekend nights.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer warned of further regulations coming in a statement after the meeting.

“I think quite frankly what you will see is maybe some different regulations related to establishments that want to operate after midnight,” Dyer said. “Perhaps a specialty permit for operation after midnight. We haven’t settled on anything just yet, but this now unties our hands and gives us the ability to do that.”

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