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Bar hours vote expected Monday

By Staff | Mar 25, 2016

City Council members are expected to vote at Monday’s meeting whether to extend the South Cape 4 a.m. bar hours pilot program for another year.

The pilot program that has been in effect for the last 12 months expires on April 3 unless council approves the proposed extension.

“I think it is pretty positive in my point of view,” said Councilmember John Carioscia. “All I want still is a straight-up vote on it. We have a couple of new members on council and I want hear the entire council commentary Monday night.”

At a meeting last month, city council. sitting as the South Cape Community Redevelopment Agency, voted to approve the extension and send it to a formal council vote for a final decision. A motion to extend it for three years was defeated, but passed when reduced to one year.

“(The CRA vote) I thought was a bit awkward because we are the council,” Carioscia said. “I was against the three years.”

Police Chief Bart Connelly told the CRA board he had been pulling officers from other areas of the city to assist officers assigned to patrol the streets at bar closing until 6 a.m. He recommended hiring additional officers as a solution to leaving other patrol areas underprotected.

“The bottom line is the chief expected more negative activity because of what he learned from other communities that had extended hours,” said Carioscia. “The society in Cape Coral is not crime-ridden. The issues we’ve seen at the bars has not been shootings or rapes, but isolated disorderly conduct. Chief says it is manageable with more officers.”

It is estimated that funding needed for four officers and one supervisor directly related to the bar hours enforcement for the first year is $114,444, or 30 percent of the new officers’ time. The cost for those officers while assigned to traffic safety for the other 70 percent of their time is $267,034. These costs can be funded by undesignated general fund reserves, with CRA funds or contributions from bar owners.

Since the CRA vote, police and the city’s Economic Development Office have made requested changes and added data and are expected to update council members.

Connelly reported in February that intoxicated person calls increased by 54 over the previous 12-month period in 2014. Disturbance, trespass and DUI incidents also increased significantly.

“These numbers are not as significant as we thought they might be,” Connelly said at the time. “We expected some increase. There was a spike of under-21 serving, but after additional training with bar staff that number went down.”

Supporters say the extra two hours of service on Friday and Saturday nights has benefitted other businesses, like taxicabs, Uber and restaurants before and after the 4 a.m. closing. New businesses also have been attracted to the South Cape, specifically Mona Lisa Pizza and Waffle House.

A related resolution reinstating five positions to the Police Department will be voted on following the bar hours public hearing.

Other activity on Monday’s agenda includes an ordinance amendment to change a large parcel in the 5100 block of Chiquita Boulevard from single family to multifamily residential. The amendment was previously approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Council also will hear resolutions seeking funding and property related to the construction of the Utilities Expansion Project in the North 1 and 2 zones for the purpose of constructing lift stations.

Monday’s meeting starts at 4:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall on Cultural Park Boulevard.