St. Augustine has dropped a controversial proposal that would have required businesses to get a permit to sell alcohol after midnight.
The City Commmission voted down the ordinance Monday after business owners insisted it would hurt their operations.
The ordinance was intended to combat unruly behavior by late-night partiers. It would have required businesses to get a permit to sell alcohol between midnight and 2 a.m., to maintain adequate security, to train at least one employee in responsible beverage serving practices, to provide a crowd manager when there were 50 or more guests, and to ensure no employees were drinking during their shifts.
The ordinance faced opposition from business owners in the downtown area and from the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. The chamber released a statement Friday urging an economic impact study to understand what effects the ordinance would have on the city’s tourism and hospitality industry.
Chamber President and CEO Isabelle Renault said she was pleased with the City Commmission’s action. She said she worried that the ordinance could have sent the message that the city was essentially closing down at midnight.
“Having a nightlife brings a lot of vibrancy and an economic impact in St. Johns County where people are staying later for a concert and are booking a hotel room after the concert to stay a little bit,” Renault said.
Business owners said they would have taken a hit at a time when inflation is already pushing their costs higher. After weathering the COVID-19 pandemic, some said another blow would be crippling.
About 27 of 100-plus businesses in St. Augustine stay open past midnight, according to information shared at a community meeting.
St. Augustine Police Chief Jennifer Michaux told the commission that police calls in the downtown area have remained steady between midnight and 2 a.m. over the last four years, except during the pandemic in 2020. Calls in the downtown area have increased slightly when considering all hours of the day, Michaux said.
The city has plans to help improve the downtown area without moving forward with late-night permitting. City Manager David Birchim described plans to improve lighting for pedestrians, develop a ride-sharing hub, open restrooms longer and provide more trash cans.
Birchim said those plans will be unveiled in coming months.