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South Cape CRA advisory board supports extended bar hours

By Staff | Apr 2, 2016

Extended bar hours in the South Cape, which the Cape Coral City Council voted down on Monday, is headed back to the dais.

In front of a packed house, which included several city council members, at the Chester Street Resource Center on Friday, the Community Redevelopment Advisory board voted 3-1 in favor of extended bar hours in a one-hour meeting where residents voiced their opinions for and against the measure.

The recommendation will next go to the CRA Board, comprised of the Cape Coral city council, then before the council itself.

Lynn Pippinger, owner of Dixie Roadhouse and a member of the CRA Advisory Board, abstained because of her direct involvement; the Dixie is one of two venues that took part in the extended hours pilot program, staying open until 4 a.m. on the weekend. She said she was happy with the result.

“I’m glad to see that my fellow board members understand how good this program is for South Cape and the economic impact it’s having,” Pippinger said. “Reducing hours can have a devastating impact. It’s expensive to run a nightclub right. We’ve had examples in that building where it made lots of money, but was run wrong.”

Pippinger said the extended bar hours has given her a competitive edge over those in other Lee County cities, as now people will cross the bridge, pay the toll and come to South Cape. Losing that could cause the Dixie some financial impact.

That wasn’t enough to convince some residents to give extended hours another chance. Lynn Rosko said there isn’t a need to do that in the first place.

“Closing at 2 a.m. is more than sufficient. To extend it for two more hours is asking for trouble,” Rosko said. “I’m not surprised by the decision. It’s just ridiculous that they should have input since one of the members is a bar owner.”

She told the board that extended hours would put police and EMT in further danger, while others complained of the noise and that the ordinance would “turn us into Fort Myers with all the crime,” as resident Dave Lawrence said.

Another, Bruce Marvin, accused Pippinger of holding the city and the South Cape “hostage” when she said Tuesday that eliminating extended hours could force her to close or move elsewhere.

Others, such as Janis Keim, said the issue wasn’t 2 or 4 a.m., but “growth vs. non-growth.”

“We need to be open to new ideas. There are people who are drinking at 8 or 9 a.m. Those are the ones who are more dangerous,” Keim said. “Law enforcement is doing what needs to be done.”

Proponents said the bars doing extended hours are making money, which has trickled to the other businesses, such as Nevermind, that the increase in police and EMT calls are negligible and were to be expected with the constant presence of police, and that the buzz surrounded extended hours are bringing people to the South Cape.

As for the customers who come late, Pippinger said they are mostly other hospitality workers who now have a place to go once their places of business close for the night.

City Councilmember Jessica Cosden, who voted against extended the pilot program Monday, said Friday she was ready to bring a modified ordinance back to the table, with the bar owners, not the city, paying for an extra police officer, something Pippinger said she was doing already.

The ordinance would have to be voted for reconsideration and then go through the same process it did before, including public hearings. The process will likely result in extended bar hours being halted temporarily unless the city council has the ability to extend the pilot program.

As it is, this will likely be the final weekend with extended hours, as the program expires this weekend.

The board’s decision did not make some people happy, as they vowed to continue the fight.

“I feel the decision was the wrong one. I also find it strange they can get a letter to the city council to change the agenda by Monday. They haven’t formed it or set it, so how are they going to get a response to it?” said Bruce Marvin, a vocal opponent to the ordinance. “I don’t think it should be on there. If it is, I’ll be there.”