FORT MYERS, Fla. - With the current hard closing procedures, Fort Myers bar owners say people pour out into the streets at 2 a.m. They say it's unsafe for them and police. But City Council and police say the resources just aren't there to handle keeping bars open an extra hour. And Monday night, they decided to look for better options.
"There is not enough flux of people coming down there. It's dead half the time," bar patron Leia Tomer said.
She and some bar owners believe a soft close could be the answer: Bars would stop serving alcohol at 2 am but have until 3 am to empty all the customers outside.
They say this would:
-reduce police friction
But City Manager Robert Gardner said, "we had a great deal of difficulty in finding any information that would support these claims."
According to his analysis, the soft close would:
-increase additional policing needs
-have minimal to no reduction in litter or vandalism
-generate a late-night surge of "last-call" patrons
Supporters of soft close don't support that analysis. "It didn't seem like an unbiased sort of analysis, it seemed like you, know, let's try to make City Council think this is something that doesn't need to be implemented," Indigo Room owner Raimond Aulen said.
"This is the most anti-business, anti-jobs City Council and City Manager I have ever seen," Anthony Thomas said.
Dozens stood up to show their support, but ultimately, Council decided against further discussion, 6-1.
"The problem and the issue that I have for the Police Department is that the resources available to me at this current date," Chief Doug Baker said.
"Not that we don't want to do it, the fact that we don't have the resources," Council Member Johnny Streets, Jr. said.
"The way that we fix this issue is through the continued renaissance of our city and beyond the downtown area in the way of diversification of entertainment," Mayor Randall Henderson said.
This isn't the end of discussion for how to solve late night problems downtown. Council will now look for other ways within the city's resources. Supporters say, this isn't the end either. They'll just keep working to gain support throughout the city.