James Keblas, Director of the Office of Film and Music, met with Capitol Hill residents last night to answer questions about the mayor's eight-point plan (.pdf) for improving Seattle's nightlife for business owners, residents, and the bar and club crowd. The mayor's office has an ongoing online survey up about the proposal—the graphs in this post were taken from that data—but you can't ask questions of a survey, and the Q & A last night was fantastic. Here are five examples:
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Q: How can the LCB make an exemption for Seattle without making it statewide? How are you going to convince a state agency with total control to change a policy to suit you? A: "We’re never going to gain traction with them without getting the support of politicians and the community," says Keblas. "We’re spending three months testing the waters, hopefully have an incredible amount of sign-off, and then petition for change. Most likely it would be a petition that would open up a process, an opt-in process throughout the state."
Q: How would the permitting work for staggered service hours for bars? A: "I don’t want to get too far ahead of the process now," says Keblas, "but here’s a hint of what we think would happen. It would be a privileged license with a tremendous amount of conditions attached...You have to be able to measure it, in order to do it successfully. Measure SPD calls, drunk driving issues, economic impacts. Set these measures in place, say 'here are the numbers right now.' Then we'd grant something like 200 licenses spread among numerous neighborhoods, and build it up intentionally over time."
Q: Won't mandatory security training put an undue financial burden on businesses? A: "The short answer is, yeah," Keblas says. "Security training is $90 per person, larger clubs have lots of personnel. But it is somewhat subsidized. We also think we’re creating an environment to make more money, we also think these things are going to reduce costs for the city. The training will be open to anybody who works for the club, required for security."
Q: The noise ordinance is the most troubling part of this—I don’t want anyone coming into my apartment at 4:00 a.m. taking measurements. There's not enough police to enforce this, so where’s the staff coming from, and where’s the training coming from? A: "There'll be some fine tuning to the noise ordinance before it’s finished," says Keblas. "They can measure from the property line [if you don't want someone in your home] but then can’t tack on the $1000 fines." Keblas adds that "It won't be SPD responding most of the time. We have an enforcement plan, and the enforcers will be working for the Office of Finance and Administrative Services."
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Q: How's the transportation component going to work? The city doesn't have the money for more buses, and if we're encouraging nightlife, that'll just mean more cars in our neighborhoods. A: "We’re not talking about buses," Keblas says. "We’re talking about things outside of that... habit changing things like allowing you to pay for your meter at 2:00 a.m. for the next morning. If you get to your car at 2:00 a.m. and know you can’t get back by 8:00 a.m. to pick it up, chances are you’re going to drive home. If you can put money in the meter, get back at 10:00 am, you might make a different decision." Keblas adds that "Right now when someone opens a nightclub, we require them to provide parking for cars. So we’re getting rid of that rule. And there are not even remotely enough taxis in the city. We're talking about increasing taxi cabs, increasing taxi stands." Keblas says that the mayors office is hearing pitches from state-wide and national safe ride programs—for example, a program that gets you home by cab and your car home (driven by a certified driver), all for $25, or another program that hands out vouchers for free cab rides home if patrons appear too intoxicated.
So what's the time line for all of these programs? "We're rolling them out slowly," says Keblas. "Some are moving forward now—the meathead ordinance was passed and the co-compliance team is already working. We're going to finalize the noise ordinance at the end of September, develop a proposal for the liquor control board at the end of this year to submit early next year, and security training for nightlife staff will start—hopefully—in January."
If you have questions of your own about the mayor's nightlife proposal, The Stranger'sNightlife Throwdown is scheduled for September 1 at 8:00 p.m. at the Hunter Gatherer Lodge on Capitol Hill.