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Cape Council cancels special meeting to hear Dixie extended hours permit appeal

By Staff | Jan 8, 2019

A special meeting of the Cape Coral City Council called to hear an appeal made by a South Cape nightclub to have its extended bar hours permit reinstated has been cancelled at the request of the venue.

The Cape Coral City Council on Monday voted unanimously to postpone the meeting to allow Dixie Roadhouse time to consult with the attorney the business retained to address the appeal.

The city also has also retained a private attorney to address the matter, which brought concern from one council member who cited a possible violation of the city charter.

Dixie Roadhouse has retained Sawyer Smith from Wilbur Smith Attorney’s at Law. The firm sent an e-mail to Cape Coral City Attorney Dolores Menendez requesting time to prepare for the hearing before City Council, which has the authority to overturn, or uphold, the Police Department’s emergency suspension of the city-issued extended hours permit that allows The Dixie to stay open until 3 a.m. weekends and some holidays.

The firm was retained on Saturday.

Menendez, in an e-mail to Mayor Joe Coviello and city council members, said the proceeding had “taken an accelerated path due to the time frames established in the city code regarding emergency suspensions.”

Councilmember John Carioscia said the delay would allow both sides to cool off and slow down the pace so that each could better prepare for the appeal hearing.

City Council approved the request to waive a 30-day deadline for appeal Monday without much discussion.

However, Councilmember John Gunter, questioned the city administration retaining a private attorney without consultation or approval of City Council, something he said violated the city charter.

“The city manager needs to come back and request the use of outside council,” Gunter said. “Procedural process needs to be conformed to.”

City Manager John Szerlag defended his decision, saying that he has done so regularly and has been very successful, with results including the eventual interlocal agreement between Fort Myers and Cape Coral concerning the purchase of treated wastewater which the city will use to boost its irrigation supply.

Coviello defended Szerlag’s action, saying that the permit suspension happened during Council’s hiatus and the timeline between the permit suspension and the public hearing forced some quick action.

Also, when there are hearings such as this, it is usually about land use and going and not about the suspension of a permit.

The Dixie Roadhouse/ Rockade’s extended hours permit, which allows the South Cape Entertainment District establishment to remain open one extra hour – until 3 a.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and some holidays – was suspended by Cape Coral Police Chief David Newlan on Dec. 12. The action came four days after an altercation that happened shortly after 3 a.m. outside of the bar and in a nearby public parking lot.

Approximately 40 people were involved, according to the Cape Coral Police Department, which added that 13 police officers, including all of the south units available at the time. responded.

The city ordinance that established the extended hour option in the South Cape Entertainment District only gives the chief of police the authority to suspend the city-issued permit for public health, safety and welfare reasons. The ordinance also provides for an appeal process and The Dixie, owned by Colosseum LLC, noticed the city that it would appeal the emergency action.

No arrests were made.

The permit suspension does not affect The Dixie’s regular operating hours, only the 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. weekend time.