SEMINOLE – After months of discussion on an ordinance governing establishments that serve alcoholic beverages, the City Council voted 4-3 Oct. 9 to reject the latest proposal.
The vote sends the entire process back to the workshop level where Vice Mayor Thomas Barnhorn hopes to craft two separate ordinances. One would address a minimum age for patrons in a stand-alone bar and another would give the city’s Developmental Review Board the power to regulate bars and bottle clubs that have a capacity for 100 or more patrons.
Votes by Barnhorn, John Counts, Bob Matthews and Mayor Jimmy Johnson sent the issue back to the drawing board after the City Council voted 4-3 in favor of the same proposal Sept. 25 that would have grandfathered in Boomerz Cafe, 6990 Seminole Blvd., and Page II, 8680 Park Blvd.
Both clubs cater to customers under age 21 but limit alcohol sales to patrons 21 and older.
Matthews reversed his previous vote in favor of the proposal when he learned that a bouncer at Page II was arrested by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Oct. 3 for allowing a 15-year-old into the club.
“I have a real problem with this (proposal) after what happened (Oct. 3) and nobody’s here (from Page II) to defend themselves,” said Matthews. “I think we need to break these two pieces out and take a look at it”
Councilor Peter Hofstra, who proposed grandfathering Page II and Boomerz Cafe on age restrictions, questioned the validity of the arrest at Page II, saying there is no law on the books that says a 15-year-old cannot be in an establishment that serves alcohol.
Hofstra, Patricia Hartstein and Dan Hester voted for the proposal, which would have given Boomerz and Page II a chance to clean up past problems.
“If these establishments were following state law, the city of Seminole would not be addressing this now,” said Hartstein. “I’m in favor of leaving the grandfather in because it is a win-win situation.”
“Most of the e-mails I received were in favor of this ordinance without the grandfather,” said Johnson.
Hester said the ordinance was good and should be passed.
“It’s fair and reasonable to let these two businesses get with the program,” said Hester. “If they do, it’s a win-win. I think it’s unfair to take a business and pull the rug out from under them. It’s wrong if we don’t give them the opportunity to follow the ordinance.”
Counts said he was against minors being in bars for any purpose.
“I’ve contacted our local state representative (Janet Long) and (Pinellas County Commissioner Karen) Seel to look into underage kids in bars,” Counts said. “I’m in favor of splitting up the ordinance and breaking it out.”
A number of citizens spoke both for and against the latest proposal. Among them were employees of Boomerz and students from an American Government class at Seminole High School, who cited the 26th Amendment (providing voting rights at age 18) among other criteria for allowing underage patrons into bars.
“I don’t think this ordinance is fair,” said Boomerz manager John Caskill. “When you’re targeting two businesses instead of all businesses, you’re setting up two businesses to fail.”