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Bar hours: Economic impact study under way

By Staff | Jun 17, 2016

As City Council member Richard Leon spends the summer hiatus working to pull together a new ordinance to permanently extend bar hours in South Cape by working with the private sector on the details, Joe Mazurkiewicz is working to pull together a presentation showing the economic benefit derived during the one-year pilot program that ended on April 1.

“It’s way more than extended bar hours,” said Mazurkiewicz, president of BJM?Consulting who is representing the two South Cape businesses that participated fully. “It was a significant economic impact when compared to the rest of the city. I’m trying to get the sales tax figures from before the pilot program, during the program and after to show that the bump was bigger in South Cape than the rest of the city.”

The problem, Mazurkiewicz said, is the Department of Revenue does not separate out their data that way.

“A unique marketing niche was established that created an attraction to downtown,” Mazurkiewicz said. “Businesses invested $350,000 to put together a number of special events during the year. That also brought in new businesses to South Cape.”

Dixie Roadhouse and BackStreets Sports Bar were the two participating establishments that stayed open until 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights – two businesses, two hours, two days.

“They were comfortable with the conditions for the security, the cameras and the community policing that was there,” Mazurkiewicz said. “They know that they had to pay to play and contributed to the additional public safety.”

Mazurkiewicz has talked to additional businesses about the program and the impact it had on them and one thing he heard was that other bars had no option to afford the entry fee.

“Only a couple of the venues have enough seats to support the additional hours,” he said. “Smaller venues would like to be considered if they are allowed to do so at less cost. They need some kind of a sliding scale in order to participate in the extended hours.”

Mazurkiewicz said he has not spoken with Leon about that recently, but believes the sliding scale should be factored into the new ordinance.

Two roadblocks being thrown up include Councilmember Jessica Cosden’s concern for cost neutrality to taxpayers, and Councilmember Rana Erbrick’s wish to extend bar hours to establishments citywide.

“My goal is to find the additional revenue going to the city as a result of the unique marketing niche in South Cape that would show no general fund money is being used,”?Mazurkiewicz said of Cosden’s neutrality concern. “It’s pay to play.”

Erbrick has said from the dias, “I don’t care if bars are open 24/7. If it’s strictly two hours, two days a week, I’m out. I think it should be allowed citywide, but it needs to be policed properly.”

“To offer it citywide disperses the safety concerns to the city as a whole,” said Mazurkiewicz, a former Cape Coral mayor. “Most cities who do this restrict it to a specific area because of the marketing niche.”

At the end of last week’s council workshop discussion, Leon said he would bring the bar hours ordinance back to the first council workshop meeting after the summer hiatus for more discussion.

“I know I have to be ready by then,” Mazurkiewicz said, “and I have no idea if I can because of that data from the Department of Revenue.”

The bar hour pilot program was voted down 5-3 by council at one late-March meeting and reconsidered at a second and failed with a 4-4 deadlock vote.

Still, Leon, who has spearheaded the program from its inception, was not satisfied and pledged to bring back a permanent ordinance, which is the one he is working on now.