Boozing and browsing downtown.

Warren Wright

Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Boozing and browsing downtown.

CREATED Oct. 10, 2013 - UPDATED: Oct. 10, 2013

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Should you be able to "booze and browse" in downtown Fort Myers?  

At least one group of downtown business owners say letting you walk around with an open container of alcohol is a bad idea.  
 
For restaurant and bar owners its not the entertainment district but the security rules that come with it that have them so concerned. 
 
They fear it crush them financially and destroy the ambiance of the nightlife as well.
 
With the success of art walk... city leaders want to make sure people can enjoy the experience of hopping from one art gallery to the next with their favorite alcoholic beverage in hand. 
 
So Fort Myers city staff is working on an ordinance to make sure its done in the safest way possible.
 
But some say the proposed  entertainment district's security policy goes too far.
 
Nils Richter is a downtown property owner. He says "nobody wants to go to a nice upscale bar and be frisked and body searched to enter and this is part of their proposed ordinance which in my book really makes no sense."
 
Business owner who serves alcohol would be required to hire extra security staff. 
 
Also, there would be a mandatory search of all patrons including their bags and purses for concealed weapons.
 
Nightclub owner Raimond Aulen says that's overkill that sends the wrong message: "Its not really a hot spot for criminal activity- but having all those security measures would give people the impression that  maybe we really do."
 
City staff is holding workshops on the proposed ordinance, getting feedback from land owners as well as shop keepers.   
 
Director for downtown redevelopment, Don Paight, feels there could be room for compromise.
 
He says "instead of imposing regulations on everybody... is to impose regulations on the clubs that are having problems.  If they're having calls for service... then we maybe put more restrictions on them."
 
Business owners want to keep the buzz of activity going with events like art walk  and like the idea of an entertainment district ... as long as its not too restrictive.
 
City staff said if there isn't a clear consensus with downtown business leaders on creating an entertainment district,  they won't push the agenda forward to the city council.  
 
But they do point out there are five other cities in Florida where programs like these that are working successfully.  
 
Warren Wright

 

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