Four Deerfield Bars Bring City to Court Over Closing Times

Four late-night bars in Deerfield Beach are learning their lesson the hard way: Get it in writing, or it never happened.

Dr. Philgoods, the Porthole Pub, El Reventon, and Tropicante, all located in south-central Deerfield Beach, have gone to federal court after the City Commission decided to pull the plug on their extended hours, forcing the four bars to change their closing times from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. in accordance with city law.

According to an article today in the Sun Sentinel, former City Manager Larry Deetjen verbally told Dr. Philgoods owner Carl Johnson he could stay open until 4 a.m., along with the Porthole Pub, back in 2000 when the area was annexed into the city with a chunk of unincorporated Broward County. But he never got it in writing.

Now the City Commission is going after the four bars, and Deetjen says he can't recall whether he gave the bars verbal assurance.

The venues are mainly upset because another nearby Deerfield bar, All Stars Sports Bar & Grill on West Sample Road, is the only bar in the city allowed to stay open until 4 a.m. Why the special treatment for All Stars? According to the city, when the area was incorporated in 2000, it made a perfectly legal "annexation agreement" with the bar, promising it could stay open until 4 a.m. in perpetuity to get the property owner to support the annexation.

Now All Stars has a monopoly on the late-night hours, and the four bars are taking the city to federal court, claiming it's their right under the U.S. Constitution to stay open that late. Sound a bit dramatic? Not for these local business owners, who currently serve a healthy In-the-Biz crowd between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m.

"Every surrounding business is 2 a.m.," Porthole Pubs owner Garry Westbrook told Sun Sentinel. "My business thrives from 2 a.m. until 4 a.m., when people that work at restaurants that close at midnight or 1 a.m. get off work and want to go somewhere."

While the suit was already dismissed by a federal judge last week, Fort Lauderdale attorney Daniel Aaronson plans to appeal the case. And if you're a devoted late-night patron of any of these badass haunts, don't fret. They're being rebels and staying open late while the courts consider the lawsuit.

Let's hope this battle doesn't get messy!

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