City The Nightlife Hearing
posted by June 5 at 11:11 AMon
Originally posted last night.
I’m sitting in the packed public hearing for Sally Clark’s proposed (but as-yet-unreleased) nightlife legislation (more on that here), where the crowd is stacked up ten to one against the proposal. Dozens of pro-nightlife speakers and a handful of neighborhood opponents have spoken passionately about Clark’s proposal, an amended version of Mayor Nickels’s proposed nightlife license legislation. Most of the testimony against the bill has focused on the so-called “fifty-foot rule,” which would require bar and club owners to police the area within 50 feet of their property for nuisance crimes and violence. “To be responsible for all the activities in that perimeter, I would have to double my staffing,” said Matthew Darling, owner of a small West Seattle club called Skylark. “I would have to train my servers and bartenders to essentially be security guards. People and issues that may have nothing to do with our business will be my responsibility.”
Bar owners and several downtown residents said the problems associated with nightlife could be addressed by increasing police presence around clubs, not piling on more regulations. Nancy Dillon, a longtime Belltown resident who lives in the vicinity of seven bars, said she routinely sees “no police action” on the street on Friday and Saturday nights. “I’ve personally gone over and talked to police who were just sitting there and had them say, ‘that’s not my problem. That’s not my job.’” David Osgood, a longtime attorney for nightlife establishments, suggested that a different approach to policing, not licensing, is the answer. “We have rules. We have laws against noise. We have laws against public drunkenness,” Osgood said. “What we don’t have is the policing model we need in this town to deal with large crowds of people late at night.”
On the anti-nightlife side were a small cadre of neighborhood activists, who clustered on the far right side of council chambers and applauded loudly every time one of their number spoke. John Cook, a resident of the Pomeroy apartments above the Twist nightclub, suggested that downtown clubs “move to a warehouse somewhere,” adding, “if folks don’t find a way to be decent neighbors, when the next set of regulations that come out, they’ll wish they’d accepted these regulations.” However, another downtown resident, Todd Nelson, spoke immediately after Cook; he said he “learned early on” that Belltown is a noisy place to live. “There’s a solution. It’s called earplugs. I sleep with them every night. The people who want the noise to go away—I would suggest that you move to Magnolia.”