Fort Lauderdale bar owners this week were shocked to receive notice that the city will consider a measure Tuesday on whether to scale back late-night drinking in the city.
Some owners of nightlife establishments were given a letter dated September 23 from City Manager Lee Feldman explaining that at the October 6 regularly scheduled commission meeting, city commissioners will consider amending current law regulating alcohol sales. Two amendments to current ordinances would effectively stop alcohol sales at 2 a.m. every night of the week.
Currently, section 5-29 of the city code of ordinances states that bars and restaurants must stop serving alcohol at midnight, unless they have a special extended-hours permit that allows them to serve from midnight to 2 a.m. weekdays and 3 a.m. on Saturday and Sundays. Section 5-56, however, creates an exemption for businesses to be deemed "late-night licensed establishments" and serve alcohol until 4 a.m., with customers allowed to finish their drinks in the establishment until 4:30 a.m.
But the proposed ordinance — a copy of which was enclosed with Feldman's letter — would amend the sale of alcoholic beverages in the city. It changes the time that bars must stop serving to 2 a.m. every day of the week and completely strikes out exemptions for late-night establishments:
Several nightlife industry players contacted by New Times did not want to go on the record until they knew more details but worried that the measure would "kill the Himmarshee District," known for its nightlife. They speculated that the measure was prompted by "new developers in town" or that it was drawn up to force changes at Beach Place on A1A. Beach Place has been plagued by drug and crime issues. City officials threatened to revoke its 4 a.m. license earlier this year.
"We've already been decimated once by the Hard Rock when they opened," said one business owner, who fears the proposed changes would wreak havoc on Fort Lauderdale's businesses by cordoning off their late-night crowds to the Seminole-owned behemoth, which is located on tribal land and stays open 24 hours. "They have more money than God, and they'll win by default. Again."
It's hard to imagine a change this dramatic going over well with Fort Liquordale's local imbibers or with party-seeking tourists who bolster the economy, despite attempts to stamp out the city's eternal spring break image.
The proposed ordinance will be discussed at the next City Commission meeting, Tuesday, October 6, at 6 p.m., at Fort Lauderdale City Hall, 100 N. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Anyone wanting to speak at the meeting can sign in with a member of the city clerk's staff at the meeting.
It's not yet known when the measure might be finalized. Items before the commission typically require two separate readings before becoming law.