Recently, the Tampa Tribune reported that City of Tampa Attorney David Smith has sent a letter to the Office of the Attorney General to determine if the City has the statuory authority to limit drink specials offered by bars and nightclubs. The Tribune said that “Iorio has looked for ways to curb alcohol use in the past, part of her effort to transform Ybor City into a more family-friendly environment.”
Let me start bay saying that I can understand how limiting “ladies drink free,” “sink or swim,” or even “three-for-one” specials can create an environment unsuitable for the term “family-friendly.” However, I am not sure that government regulation of free enterprise is necessarily the way to go.
I also want to say that the types of businesses in Ybor City, especially those on 7th Avenue don’t typically draw a “family” clientele. You won’t see a nuclear family coming out of Gaspar’s Grotto or Prana or Empire. Yes, the restaurants such as Columbia or Big City Tavern or even Gameworks are family-friendly destinations – but the families are home by 8:00 or 9:00pm.
That is when the ‘wrong kind of crowd’ comes out. Teenagers too young to get into the clubs loiter the streets. College kids with fake (and real) id’s hit the clubs. And the reason I no longer head to Ybor “after hours.”
So, what is a leader to do?
Well, for starters, let’s consider that the Mayor really wants to “protect young people” as
Smith said in the article. One way to do that would be to remove anyone underage, as in under 21, from wanting to be in Ybor City – by removing their destinations. However, I don’t want to propose new regulations. Businesses will have to want to make a change that will actually cost them customers.
I believe the City can offer a unique enticement to local businesses: longer hours. In Tampa, the clubs must stop serving alcohol at 2:00am on weekdays and 3:00am on weekends. Clubs in Miami Beach are open later, like many other metropolitan areas. So why not allow clubs to be open longer, allowing them to make a little extra money from customers.
This would be the deal. The City offers a special permit for nightclubs and bars to sell alcohol for one more later, if the clubs agree to two provisions: no drink specials other than 2-for-1, and no allowing anyone under 21 years of age to enter. The City could even offer to make that two extra hours, if no one under 23 years of age are permitted. Those who don’t could still face the end of certain drink specials anyway, so I think most clubs would look to get something instead of nothing.
So, that is my proposal. No more teenagers in Ybor City and no more drink specials, in exchange for longer operating hours. I understand if law enforcement might have concerns, but if there are fewer teens in the area, their job would be that much easier (relatively speaking).