The Jacksonville Beach City Council resolved the issue of late-night alcohol sales Feb. 21 after it approved a $75 permit for bars and restaurants aiming to serve spirits after 12 a.m.
In a 5-2 vote, the council decided to require all bars and restaurants to apply for a permit if they wish to continue business after midnight. This will take effect in 90 days.
After receiving the permit, repeat law violations will result in the revocation of the ability to sell after midnight.
Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Bruce Thomason was present at the City Council meeting and explained how crime is considerably worse after midnight in the downtown area of the beach. He said bar owners would not be punished if they just stopped selling alcohol to intoxicated patrons.
Many restaurant and bar employees were present at the meeting, and some voiced their concerns about the change.
Samantha Robenolt, owner of Ginger’s Place, said the police in Jacksonville Beach are fully equipped to deal with problems that arise. She also said she can’t control her patrons when they become disruptive in the community, especially when they show no signs of over-drinking.
Beaches-area residents also took time to express their opinions about the ordinance.
Audrey Lackie, a Neptune Beach resident, said she opposed the ordinance because she worries her tax money will pay for investigations that take place when bars commit violations. She did not want her taxes to increase as a result of the ordinance. She said she is also concerned about unfair competitive tactics among bars and restaurants.
Councilman Tom Taylor opposed the bill. He said it would not promote good business in Jacksonville Beach.
“There’s nothing I want more than a family-oriented beach,” Taylor said. “We’re a beach and we’re gonna have entertainment, and somehow we’ve got to figure out how to control that entertainment … I’m just scared we’re gonna be labeled as an unfriendly business beach and people are gonna start opening their businesses elsewhere.”
Councilwoman Penny Christian defended the reasons for the ordinance during the City Council meeting.
“This isn’t a witch hunt,” Christian said. “I think that we have many many wonderful business establishments that are extremely responsible. I think we have many extremely responsible people who go to those. We also have some that aren’t responsible.”
Christian said the overall effect of the ordinance would be positive for Jacksonville Beach.
“I think if we pass this ordinance, it’s another tool for the toolbox to help Jax Beach grow and to become more family-orientated.”
It will bring in new businesses and help the businesses already there to grow, she said.