ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City commissioners voted to pass the first reading of two new ordinances aimed at addressing safety in downtown Orlando, though some bar owners tell News 6 they worry the possible changes could shut them down.
The new ordinances come after the city has already made safety changes in the past few months, like the use of a new weapon detection system and also additional police downtown.
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The proposed changes include a six-month temporary moratorium on the opening of new nightclubs in downtown Orlando. The city said it’s all to give leaders time to evaluate safety downtown. There’s also a proposed requirement for full-liquor establishments to have an after-midnight permit to sell alcohol between midnight and 2 a.m.
The proposal also says the police chief shall determine — based on occupancy — how much private security is needed both inside and outside their establishments. Information provided by the city of Orlando said a business with an occupancy between 151-400 people on Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening could pay $540 per night for the extra security. Businesses with an occupancy of more than 1,151 people could pay $2,160 per night.
“To say this is a bar and nightclub issue is wrong,” said one bar worker who spoke at Monday’s city commission meeting.
Monica McCowan is the Vice President of the Orlando Hospitality Alliance. She’s also an executive chef and manager at several bars and restaurants downtown.
“I’m definitely for a new ordinance for safety in downtown Orlando, but this ordinance, as it’s written, is going to put places out of business,” McCown said. “The costs could cost some business anywhere from $100,000 to $2 million a year.”
This proposal comes after the city re-redeployed 30 extra officers to patrol downtown in October after a shooting in July that hurt seven people. But, Police Chief Eric Smith said the city’s rising costs to maintain those extra officers is not sustainable, though he added crime downtown has gone down.
The city’s Community Redevelopment Agency has paid about $40,000 a weekend for the additional officers.
“I do not want it to be a financial impact to where jobs are lost and there are businesses that might go under,” said Orlando City Commissioner Regina Hill.
The second reading of the ordinances is set for March to give commissioners more time to continue to discuss these ordinances.
There’s also an amendment to a Safe Program that allows bar owners to apply for an increased grant amount of now $20,000 dollars to help with reimbursement for security.
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