The last dance?

Jon Marsa, proprietor of The Club at Firestone, says its 4th Anniversary Party on July 3 will be the venue's final late-night party, a.k.a. rave, unless the Orlando City Council backs away from a recommendation to shutter all-night clubs at 4 a.m. "I've already pulled all my booking. I'm not going to be the one that bears the microscopic attention," says Marsa, who was under the microscope during the months that a task force debated what to do about the dances that are perceived by some to be dens of drug activity. And because the top-name DJs book far in advance, Marsa says he would be hard-pressed to revive the action any time soon. For the past two years, Marsa has managed the Orange Avenue nightspot targeted by police and politicians because it is Orlando's premier rave club. Thus, The Club would feel the brunt of restrictions proposed by Mayor Glenda Hood's Rave Review Task Force and considered for the first time by the council on June 23. Yet for all the time and discussion devoted to these proposed restrictions, Marsa says there is only one that matters -- the closing time. Currently, the parties go on until 9 a.m. Slashing the final five hours, during which the raves really get cooking, would make it virtually impossible for Marsa to make any money off scene. "It's difficult enough to operate as it is," he says. Some suspect that Marsa, a sharp businessman, is milking the controversy. Once this string is played out, he could turn around and open a late-night spot that does not sell alcohol, thereby sidestepping the local ordinance as well as the new state law that limits late-night operations only in those clubs that have a liquor license. This would limit profits but not necessarily reduce the late-night crowd, which does not rely on cocktails to feed its frenzy. Marsa insists he has decided against such tactics, as they might return him to the center of the controversy. "If I'm going to be at odds with the city, I don't want that kind of interest from people who can destroy my business at a whim," he says. Without The Club, which has security, an emergency medical technician and rules designed to limit drug use, some have argued that the parties simply will move to less safe venues. Others insist that anything other than an outright ban amounts to de facto approval of drug use. Marsa is lobbying for a 6 a.m. closing and special licenses for all-night affairs. Hood and the council may be moving in that direction. On Monday, the council approved the task force's proposals -- except the closing time. The task force had seesawed back and forth before grudgingly embracing the 4 a.m. compromise. The council seems split along similar lines. "It was like deja vu," says Chris Caruso, the task-force chairman. Downtown, the late-night scene may be at risk. But other raves are planned beyond the control of those who would regulate them. On July 4th, a crowd will gather at the Central Florida Fairgrounds for "Independance Day." Because no drinks will be sold, this bash could go all night long. But, in an apparent reaction to the political climate, the dance is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., through the heat of the day. Which means there should be plenty of water on hand to wash down the Ecstacy pills.


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