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Owner: Dixie Roadhouse may close with elimination of later bar hours

By Staff | Mar 29, 2016

The Dixie Roadhouse may be forced to close its doors following the Cape Coral City Council’s decision on Monday to discontinue the extended bar hours in the South Cape.

At its regular meeting, the council voted 5-3 against extending a temporary ordinance that has allowed downtown restaurants and bars to remain open until 4 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays with a permit. The first year of the pilot program, which was originally approved by council last year, expires Sunday.

On Tuesday, David Townsend sent an email to council, city officials and department heads outlining the fallout from the vote. Townsend is the co-owner of the Dixie and its sister venue, the Rockade.

“I don’t think you understand the gravity of your 4 a.m. decision tonight,” he wrote to start.

Townsend explained that the Dixie lost money in 2014, attributing part of the loss to community involvement, such as providing essential services to city events and working with the city, Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral, Community Redevelopment Association and South Cape associations.

He added that the Dixie made money last year with the 4 a.m. extension.

“We will not go back to losing money,” Townsend wrote.

“You can vote to take Cape Coral back to Cape Coma, but Dixie Roadhouse and any of its’ principals, partners, managers, vendors, promoters or entertainers will not be following you there,” he said.

Townsend went on with a numbered list of what would happen if Monday’s vote stood.

“Dixie Roadhouse will probably close after Cape Coral Bike Night,” he wrote, adding that the venue will only go through with it because it is committed to the city for the event. “That is in 11 days.”

Townsend pointed out that there would be no staff to help support city and chamber events, stated that the South Cape Hospitality and Entertainment Associations and its events would disappear because few other venues help out and noted that over 100 full-time and part-time employees would lose their jobs.

“The 80 percent of our cash-flow that we pumped back into the local economy is gone,” he wrote.

Last year’s amount was estimated to be more than $3 million.

Townsend touched on lost tax revenues, nearby businesses taking a hit from the revenue that Dixie feeds them and the disappearance of thousands of marketing dollars that it spends on city events. He predicted that half of the new South Cape businesses would fail, with those still under construction.

“For those of you that think the South Cape business upsurge in 2015 was because of the more positive economy, you’re about to find out that you are mistaken,” Townsend wrote. “Most of it wasn’t.”

Councilmember Jim Burch responded to the email and possible closing.

“I hope Dixie stays in town, I hope they stay in business,” he said.

Burch, who voted against the extension on Monday, added that it would be disappointing.

“It would be disappointing to me because we spent a lot of time and money, just like they have, trying to make the pilot program work,” he said. “The circumstances weren’t met, so we voted to end it.”

Burch noted that he cannot image how a few hours are keeping the Dixie open.

“It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

“I’m hoping there’s more anger and frustration there than an intent to close down,” Burch said.

Councilmember Richard Leon, who voted for the extension, also voiced his opinion.

“It’s unfortunate that they would think about closing their doors, but if they can’t make money, they can’t make money,” he said, adding that the Cape is trying to create an atmosphere for businesses.

“It’s unfortunate to see a business go,” Leon said. “I don’t think it (Monday’s vote) showed the business community that the city council, city staff and governance is willing to stand up with businesses.”

He noted that the Dixie has donated a lot of time and money toward the city.

“I think the city is going to have to compare the costs on that,” Leon said. “You have a destination that can draw a thousand people a night. If they move out, hopefully, we can find someone to move in.”

He pointed to other South Cape businesses as hope.

“You’ve got places like BackStreets (Sports Bar) and like Rack’em (Billiards) and they’ve been through the worst of the worst,” Leon said. “I’m confident those businesses will remain for years to come.”

Lynn Pippenger, co-owner of Dixie and Rockade with Townsend, supported the email.

“I don’t disagree with most of his points,” she said on Tuesday.

Pippenger reiterated that 2014 was a very difficult year and they were looking at making “some really hard decisions.” Council then approved the program and the much-needed revenue started coming.

“We didn’t think we were going to have to make those tough decisions,” she said.

According to Pippenger, the extended bar hours increased their revenue by about 45 percent.

“Our attendance doubled on the weekends,” she said.

With the extension denied, however, the tables have again turned.

“We are going to have to revisit if this is the community for the Dixie Roadhouse,” Pippenger said, declining to get into specifics. “We’re going to have to decide if we can make this location work.”

She noted that she is incredibly disappointed in the council’s vote.

“They sent a very loud and clear message to business owners,” Pippenger said.

“I think we’re going backward,” she added.

Only two South Cape establishments took part in the program, Dixie and BackStreets.

On Monday, Councilmembers Rick Williams, Jessica Cosden, Rana Erbrick and Marilyn Stout also voted against the extension. Councilmember John Carioscia and Mayor Marni Sawicki voted in favor.

The Dixie Roadhouse is at 1023 S.E. 47th Terrace.