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Communication key to success of bar hours

By Staff | Oct 16, 2015

A partnership between the Cape Coral Police Department and representatives from the licensed bars and nightclubs in the CRA District which remain open until 4 a.m. has produced results that are beyond the expectations of either side, even if the numbers seem to show otherwise, officials said.

The two sides met Thursday for a monthly meeting to discuss how the pilot program has worked nearly six months into the trial run and, while the police chief wouldn’t say the program has been a huge success, the communication between the police and stakeholders has been.

People on all sides credit communication between the police and stakeholders as the main reason late bar hours has worked.

Cape Coral Police chief Bart Connelly said it’s been a tremendous partnership between the police and bar owners.

“Since extended bar hours started we decided to meet on a monthly basis issues regarding the program,” Connelly said. “We have reduced the number of incidents that have occurred with the extended hours such as DUI, mischief, intoxication. Officers have talked to people about getting rides home and advising them on what they should do.”

Statistics compiled by the CCPD show that incidents of DUI and intoxicated persons, though up from last year, have tapered off over the last two months and overall incidents in August/September (44) have leveled off from highs in June/ July (58).

Disturbing the peace, trespass, and disorderly conduct has also fallen from highs.

Overall numbers, since there is more enforcement, show an increase in total incidents and arrests from 2014, from 83 to 238, nearly triple from last year.

Despite the numbers, Lynn Pippinger, owner of Dixie Roadhouse, said the program has been a success so far as she sees new businesses opening up and old ones, especially restaurants, staying open later.

“The cooperation that we have, I haven’t seen gone on in any other town. I think it’s magnificent. I see tons of new businesses, and the older ones are making more revenue and we’re working well with the police department,” Pippinger said. “We’ve learned to work together and what customers respond to and who the new customers are.”

Among the programs that have helped has been extra training to bar staff from local officials and representatives from the state to drive underage drinking down to zero.

The CCPD earned grants from the state for DUI enforcement, whether it be a saturation patrol or a checkpoint.

All the bars have an officer there, talking with people about the DUI laws. As this is a pilot program, Connelly said the establishments are paying for the extra police, not taxpayers.

Connelly said the bar staffs have worked together to make sure the troublemakers stay out of the establishments late at night.

“Bar staff has learned to identify certain factors before people come into the bar. Someone stumbling or intoxicated aren’t let in. Someone who has been arguing and fighting before coming into an establishment aren’t let in,” Connelly said. “It’s a combination of us and them identifying those factors and keep the bad things from happening.”

The stakeholders, Pippinger included, said a primary concern has been traffic on Southeast 47th Terrace and keeping pedestrians safer and traffic moving.

“We have people driving, cars parked on both sides and people coming out of the bars looking at their phones and walking into traffic,” Connelly said. “We have officers there and we’re looking at traffic calming techniques and the city is also finding ways to prevent people getting hurt while walking.”

Shelly Lapaglia, owner of Backstreets, said things are going much better than expected, especially from an economic standpoint.

“I didn’t expect it to go as smooth as it’s been going. Without law enforcement, we couldn’t do this. We have to work together and have the police presence because we would have problems otherwise,” Lapaglia said. “People are taking taxis and Uber, and are learning not to drink and drive.”

Connelly wouldn’t commit to declaring the 4 a.m. trial a success, since season is coming. There hasn’t been enough analysis of the numbers to see trends or what’s happened since the one-year trial program is only halfway through.

“After that, we’ll provide a report to city leaders and they’ll decide whether to continue the program,” Connelly said. “Season is going to be telling.”