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Bar hours reconsideration bid fails

By Staff | Apr 5, 2016

Councilmember Jessica Cosden’s request for Cape Coral City Council to reconsider the 4 a.m. bar hours pilot program failed to sway other members at Monday night’s meeting despite a council chambers packed with supporters of the program.

“I think this merits more discussion,” said Cosden. “This is too important to just let go. We don’t have all the information that we need so I’d like to extend it another year.”

Cosden added that she always wanted the extended bar hours to continue, but could not go along with the hiring of more police officers at taxpayers’ expense as the reason she voted against it last Monday. Her motion for a council vote Monday included an amendment to allow continuation of the 4 a.m. closing until Oct. 1, the start of a new fiscal year, when council would be considering adding police officers to the force for the new budget cycle.

When the vote was taken, Cosden was the only member to change their vote, making it a 4-4 split instead of last week’s 5-3 vote against continuation.

Councilmember Richard Leon asked council for permission to work with staff on a new, permanent ordinance on bar hours and bring it to council at a later date, which council agreed to do.

“There has been so many inquiries, and that’s why we need to bring this back,” said Leon. “This is a great opportunity to revisit this and talk about its value to the entire city.”

When the 45-minute time period for citizen comment expired, it was Leon who asked council to waive the time and let everyone speak who wanted to. The comment period lasted nearly two hours, interrupted more than once by applause from the crowd, which forced Mayor Marni Sawicki to respond with a five-minute recess. The threat of more recess quieted the applause.

Public comment ran the full range of all previous discussions, from the positive economic impact to creating a business friendly environment; from a city-wide voting referendum on the measure to promises of bringing new businesses to Cape Coral; from the reported increase in DUI and disturbance incidents to the South Cape entertainment district becoming a destination.

Dixie Roadhouse staff said it has collected 4,413 signatures supporting the extended hours.

Sawicki, who supports the extension, brought up new researched data not offered last week. She pointed out that the extended hours increased sales taxes collected of $139,000 in the past year.

“This is just from four businesses,” she said. “If we brought in $1 million more in CRA sales tax revenue and only spent $75,000 for additional police, then we made $900,000.”

Cosden said it would have been nice to have that information available last week before voting, hence her statement about needing more information to make a decision.

In other business, council has set a special workshop session for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in council chambers to discuss the Seven Islands and the Northwest Visioning project with their next regular meeting on Monday, April 11.