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Friday, January 12, 2007

Club Crackdown: The SNMA Responds

posted by on January 12 at 16:06 PM

The Seattle Nightlife and Music Association, a lobby group for Seattle’s music industry, just completed its analysis of Mayor Greg Nickels’s proposed nightlife license and new regulations for bars and clubs. Not surprisingly, it’s a scathing takedown of a proposal that already seems unlikely to survive in its current form. The SNMA begins by pointing out that, although Nickels included club representatives on his Nightlife Task Force, they had nothing to do with the drafting of the legislation—belying claims by the mayor’s staff that the proposal had the full sign-off of the club representatives. “This was extremely frustrating and, in our opinion, resulted in a product that is far less effective and fair than something which had been developed in true collaboration.”

Other highlights from the SNMA’s analysis:

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns in the definition section relates to the new concept of “impacted public area” which is defined as “a public place within fifty (50) feet of the nightlife premises where prospective patrons gather.” Obviously the concern regarding this definition would be for an establishment having responsibility for other people’s property or behavior who may not even have visited an establishment. This essentially conveys public safety responsibilities from the police to bar owners. We feel this is not good public policy.

New requirements that club owners prevent violence and other criminal activity and litter in and near their property are “ones which most, if not all
establishments try to meet and which there are existing regulations and penalties which
the city or state can enforce. New standards such as preventing litter 50 feet from your
business are excessive

It appears that the legislation seeks to target specific types of establishments, yet provides no findings or other pertinent data to justify their reason for imposing additional regulations on such establishments.

The Mayor’s proposal will dramatically reduce investment in the nightlife industry and will impair Seattle’s international image as a music and entertainment capital. At a time when other cities and states are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to convince the “creative class” (educated 25 to 35 year olds) that they have a vibrant night life in order to entice them to live in their cities and states1, the Mayor’s office is proposing that Seattle squander its advantage. … The Mayor’s proposal assumes that the nightlife industry is only a source of problems; it is inherently flawed in that it fails to recognize that the nightlife industry is the key to this city’s economic future.

One thing they didn’t point out is that the mayor himself has dedicated hundreds of thousands of dollars to promoting Seattle’s music industry. Given the city’s claim that the music industry contributes $650 million annually to Seattle’s economy, it might behoove Mayor Nickels to listen to what that industry is telling him.

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One thing that really needs to be pointed out is that these new regulations would make many bars, restaurants and pubs essentially "nightclubs".

This means not only are they subject to costly requirements and upgrades they might not be able to afford, but their "nightclub" license, unlike a liquor license, can be revoked immediately and at any time for any infraction. This gives the city the power to basically shut down a bar at any time for any subjective reason - unlike a liquor license where you have to accrue a certain number of infractions to have your license pulled.

These requirements hogtie business owners, who, by the way Nickels, put liquor tax money into your coffers. Think about that as you try to put them out of business.

Posted by barflue | January 12, 2007 4:39 PM

The music business alone generates $1.2 billion in economic activity in Seattle per year, and pays over $11 million in taxes to Seattle. That doesn't include the many other late night bars and restaurants who add much more to that figure.

The State of Washington Liquor Board is also trying to create a Nightclub License that is redundant while having some different standards. The Mayor's policy on this is very, very poor. We have no idea why he is ignoring the nightlife and music communities on this one, as he has been supportive in the past. The community is calling out for more enforcement of current laws, especially for people on the street. The Mayor has responded with a crappy license for one type of late night business. How will this help stop the crack dealers on the street at night, or the other crime that's on the increase? How will it stop people who leave bars from being loud and obnoxious? It won't, it will just hurt the City and one of it's best homegrown assets. Let's hope Licata stops this insanity.

Posted by Meinert | January 12, 2007 4:53 PM

Preventing littering? One way to kill that (and it should be killed, dead) would be to have the same unenforcible requirement on any coffeeshop (read Starbucks et al) within city limits. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't see a Sbux cup in the street or associated litter from that establishment flying around.

Posted by Dave Coffman | January 12, 2007 7:53 PM

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