Orlando City Council votes on new rules and restrictions on downtown nightlife

The majority of the bar owners and workers present for public comment were squarely against the proposed measures

New nightlife restrictions may impact downtown Orlando businesses - Photo courtesy Ember/Facebook
Photo courtesy Ember/Facebook
New nightlife restrictions may impact downtown Orlando businesses

Orlando City Council on Monday voted unanimously on some big restrictions to nightlife in downtown Orlando. But there's still one more round of voting yet to go before these new rules becomes official.

The council were, to a person, in favor of two proposed ordinances that would both impose a six-month moratorium on new nightclubs downtown and require current bars and nightclubs operating downtown to get a permit to serve alcohol after midnight. (Or all involved will turn into gremlins when the clock strikes? ) The measures, say local leaders, are meant to increase public safety downtown.

On the other hand, public comment during the council meeting — including commenters who own and work in nightlife establishments downtown — was in the majority opposed to these proposed measures. Many of the business owners and workers expressed surprise and frustration over the speed of the whole process, and were, besides, skeptical that it would make downtown more safe.

“It's not my intention of being disrespectful here today," said John SanFelippo of the Beacham Entertainment Group during the meeting. "I'm just extremely frustrated on what is going on and how the process is being carried out, and not having the proper amount of time to discuss it, be part of the discussions, to talk about the possibility of the consequences, unintended consequences that may cause."

At one particularly strange juncture in the meeting, Commissioner Jim Gray chose to go off on downtown business owners who were concerned over the fast-tracking of this ordinance, and worried it could kill some businesses. “Many bar owners will go out of business — the ones that don't know how to operate a successful business,” said Gray.

In the end, the motion was carried unanimously for a final vote in the near future. However, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer ended up pushing the final vote back six weeks, from Feb. 6 to March 1, to allow more more time for "dialogue" between business owners and local leaders.

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McKenna Schueler

News reporter for Orlando Weekly, with a focus on state and local government, workers' rights, and housing issues. Previously worked for WMNF Radio in Tampa. You can find her bylines in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, In These Times, Strikewave, and Facing South among other publications.
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