Crime, business violations prompt possible earlier last call in Jacksonville Beach


A proposal to change the last call time in Jacksonville Beach from 2 a.m. to 12 a.m. was preliminarily approved with a vote of 5-2 at the City Council meeting Feb. 7.

The proposal, written by Jacksonville Beach Chief of Police Bruce Thomason, may prevent businesses from serving alcohol after 12 a.m. unless a special permit is obtained. The permit will cost restaurants and bars somewhere between $50 to $100, and the city would grant it.

In his Jan. 7 proposal to City Manager George Forbes, Thomason cited violations to city ordinances and state statutes as well as increased costs of law enforcement as the motivation for the amendment.

Chief violations mentioned were the sale of alcoholic beverages to persons under the age of 21, serving alcoholic beverages to intoxicated persons, fights and disturbances, driving under the influence, and the illegal sale, usage or delivery of illegal drugs.

Jacksonville Beach City Councilman Lee Buck said he is in favor of the proposal because businesses that follow the rules would be protected under the new law.

“I don’t see [the amendment] as a real penalty,” Buck said. “The way [the amendment is] written, if people do what they’re supposed to do, they won’t be penalized. The people that abuse it, they will eventually suffer the consequences of their actions.”

Buck said the extra money that goes into patrolling the streets at night for drunken patrons will run out in two years and something has to be done now in order to prepare for that. He said he believes changing the last call from 2 a.m. to 12 a.m. will help manage the situation.

Jacksonville Beach has changed over the years from a family-friendly environment to a place that is unsafe after midnight, he said.

“This used to be a family-orientated place,” Buck said. “I want people to think it’s safe to walk these streets.”

Cody Ayers, a UNF information technology junior, and Jade Rembert, a UNF English senior, said there will always be crime in Jacksonville Beach, no matter how early alcohol sales end.

“Two a.m. seems kinda early already,” Ayers said. “You can say it will decrease crime, stopping people from drinking at bars, but that won’t stop them from drinking at home and then going out and getting into trouble. People will still be out committing crimes regardless of the time.”

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Rembert said. “Crime isn’t going to change or become lower just because they moved up the time by two hours.”

While student patrons and resident City Council members willingly discuss the issue, some establishments refused to comment until it has been resolved.

The Brix Taphouse declined to comment on the issue until a final outcome has been decided by City Council. The Jacksonville Beach Police Department also declined comment on the issue because of its political nature.

Buck said he also thought businesses should train bartenders and servers to recognize when patrons are inebriated.

In the Jan. 18 workshop of City Council, Thomason said he wanted business proprietors to be responsible about alcohol sales.

A final decision regarding the proposed amendment will take place at the next City Council meeting Feb. 21.