Orlando OKs moratorium on new downtown nightclubs, alcohol use permit change

Ordinances aimed at improving safety downtown

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando leaders passed two new measures related to downtown security changes, a move which many say would make the area safer, but at a cost to small businesses.

The Orlando City Council approved a six-month moratorium on new downtown nightclubs Monday afternoon and an ordinance on after-midnight alcohol use.

That ordinance would require any bar wanting to stay open past midnight to pay a $250 permit and pay for officers to provide security on the weekends.

This means any of those bars with an occupancy of more than 125 people past midnight would have to pay a fee to help pay for police officers in downtown Orlando on weekends. The measure was approved on a 5 to 2 vote.

The ordinances could cost up to tens of thousands of dollars per year — an extra expense that Monica McCown, the vice president of Orlando Hospitality Alliance, said could financially hurt several businesses.

“Those costs are going to be borne by the nightclubs and bars,” McCown said. “It’s important we protect our guests and the people in downtown Orlando, but it’s important that we protect our businesses as well, and when we’re working together, we can find ways to protect everyone without harming the small businesses.”

The final vote got heated among commissioners and a few of those bar owners.

“Why are certain establishments excluded from paying for something that affects everyone?” said Frank Hamby, who works downtown.

Scott Kotroba owns several bars along Pine Street in downtown Orlando. He said the cost for security for three of his bars is expensive and the plan really hurts many small and mid-size bar owners.

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“Our cost is now going to $125,000, that’s exorbitant to come up with $10,000 a month. That wasn’t budgeted or planned at all,” Kotroba said. “From a business standpoint and keeping our patrons safe, we want to be part of that. I think the biggest issue I have is the formulas they’re using.”

“We spent a lot of time to figure out how to make our city safe, especially after some events last year,” Mayor Buddy Dyer said.

Bosko Lazic Supports the two ordinances aimed at addressing safety.

“We need to do something, we can’t afford to do nothing,” said Lazic, who owns several bars along Wall Street.

The final vote comes after city leaders have moved forward with addressing downtown safety issues in the last few months following a slew of violent attacks and shootings.

In July 2022, seven people were injured in a shooting after a large fight broke out on South Orange Avenue and Wall Street. A person pulled out a handgun and began firing into the crowd, prompting the city to add security checkpoints to focus on stopping people with illegal weapons.

Then, just a month ago, two people were arrested after police said they ambushed an on-duty security guard near City Hall.

The city of Orlando is expanding controlled entry points into the downtown area on the weekends following a shooting that injured seven people early Sunday.

“The violence continues,” Orlando resident Marcus Guilford said. “You know, we have shootings at clubs overnight. Random shootings is happening downtown, makes it unsafe to even walk around downtown anymore, or at least at night.”

The six-month moratorium on new downtown bars and clubs will go into effect Monday. The special alcohol-use permit would go into effect in May with a review set for 12 months.

Orlando Commissioner Regina Hill said city leaders will review the safety plan again in 18 months.

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About the Authors:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.