City Nightlife Update
posted by June 1 at 17:02 PMon
Sally Clark’s proposed nightlife regulations aren’t official yet (and won’t be until sometime next week; more on that in a minute), but bars and clubs are already expressing concern that the proposal, as described in a “briefing paper” issued by Clark’s office yesterday, is even more restrictive and punitive than the mayor’s proposed nightlife license scheme. “There are some things [in the briefing paper] that we can work with, but as an overall package, this goes far beyond what the mayor proposed,” nightlife lobbyist Tim Hatley says. “These would probably be the most stringent regulations in the country. It’s not an improvement.” Clark says her proposal is an improvement on the mayor’s, because it focuses on violence instead of nuisance crimes. “For me, it came down to how many of these things are really important enough to have that be the item you can get your license suspended or revoked for,” Clark says. “To me, that came down to violence.”
Clark’s proposal, like the mayor’s, includes a new $300 license for all bars and clubs over a certain size and occupant density. The main difference, in Clark’s view, is that the city can only pull a license for violent incidents. (Other violations will result in an as-yet-unspecified fine). However, many aspects of her legislation echo the mayor’s—and, in some cases, Clark’s proposal goes much further. The legislation still includes the concept of “impacted public areas”—currently defined as all areas within 50 feet of a club’s front door—leaving open the possibility that the city could shut down a club because a fight breaks out on the sidewalk outside. Clark says the 50-foot perimeter could be reduced, but adds, “There’s a reasonable argument to be made that what happens in front of your business is your responsibility.”
Clark’s proposal also includes all the “operating standards” in the mayor’s original legislation; introduces the possibility of new regulations, such as licenses for bouncers and promoters; and actually increases penalties for violating the city’s noise and nuisance codes. While noise violations will result in escalating fines starting at $2,000, nuisance violations could result in “abatement,” or shutting a club down as a nuisance to the neighborhood.
“Six grand [the fine for a third noise violation] could cripple a club,” Hatley says. “And then you get into modifying the nuisance code—[the proposal] says we can shut you down for just being a ‘nuisance’—well, what does that mean?”
The legislation will be discussed in a public hearing at council chambers at 5:30 pm on Monday, June 4. The actual text of the proposal, however, won’t be available until after the hearing, another sore spot for nightlife supporters. Hatley notes that the mayor first started discussing new nightlife regulations almost two years ago; Clark plans to move her proposal through in just three weeks. “I mean, hello, these are major changes!” Hatley says. “To spring this on us with no actual language is just ridiculous.”