In response to a recent tragic shooting in Ybor City, Tampa City Council members aimed to address the issue of rising violence.
During a council meeting, Council member Gwen Henderson proposed the idea of enforcing a 1 a.m. closing time for all businesses in Ybor. This proposal faced strong resistance from bar owners and their staff, who attended the Thursday meeting to express their objections.
“If you take a bartender who is working a ten hour shift, and you take away two hours, you are effectively taking away 20 percent of his income away,” said Chad Perry who works in Ybor.
“We’re not trying to solve the problems of anything by doing things like this. All you are doing is hurting the livelihood of business owners as well as the bartenders and managers that work there,” said Rick Kowalczyk, the owner of Southern Nights in Ybor.
Tampa’s city attorney advised council members that closing all businesses in one area of the city at a certain time might not be legal.
“We don’t have a mechanism to tell businesses to shut down wholesale at a particular time,” said Andrea Zelman.
The city attorney did present an alternative solution.
“The one exception to that is that Florida statutes expressly allow for a juvenile curfew,” said Zelman.
Many bar owners contend that the presence of underage individuals loitering in the streets contributes significantly to their problems.
Two kids are dead right now, neither one of them were 21. The only thing people are doing in Ybor past say, past 11 is buying alcohol. If you are under the age of 21, you’re not adding to the economy,” said Perry.
“When the police take a minor off the streets like a 14 year old, they own him. So, they put him in a car, that officer is not available for the rest of the night,” said Eric Shiller, who operates Gaspar’s Grotto.
Following hours of listening to public concerns, council members concluded the Thursday meeting without taking any immediate action. However, they requested that Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw return at a later date to present additional options for addressing the issue of violent crime in Ybor City.