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County to join Vero with later bar closing hours


Bristling at the idea of letting Vero Beach bars have an edge over those in unincorporated Indian River County, the Board of County Commissioners is looking to launch its own trial period to extend liquor service from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m.

The Vero Beach City Council in May voted to amend the city code allowing bars in the city limits to stay open until 2 a.m., an action that was prompted by a letter signed by restaurant and bar owners and managers asserting that the 1 a.m. closing time was hurting their profits.

Only a handful of city watering holes have actually been exercising the new right to extended hours, but the county doesn’t want its publicans to lose late-night partiers to city taverns.

Chairman Peter O'Bryan said "I do see it as a fairness issue" and recommended that the Board mirror the city 2 a.m. closing time. Commissioner Wesley Davis made the motion, seconded by Commissioner Joe Flescher and it passed 4-1 with Commissioner Tim Zorc dissenting without voicing his reasons for opposing the staff direction.

Flescher said, "I think many businesses will benefit." He later added, "Quite frankly, I think that the negative impact on the businesses would be significant over a long period of time."

Just as the city asked Police Chief David Currey to report back on any additional mischief or criminal activity the extra hour of drinking might cause, county officials will ask Sheriff Deryl Loar for the same data. Should the county ordinance change be approved, it, too, would sunset on June 15, 2015 like Vero’s ordinance.

City Attorney Dylan Reingold estimated it would be early July before the ordinance change could be brought before the Board for a vote and O’Bryan asked him to expedite that, for the businesses’ benefit.

Kirby Zettle, one of the managers of YNOT on U.S. 1 south of Vero, said “it would be crucial to us” to stay open until 2 a.m.

The bistro YNOT, which converts to Club YNOT on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights with a live band or disc jockey and advertises “The hottest dance party in Vero Beach,” draws a younger, later crowd similar to that which used to frequent the former Joey’s in the Three Avenues plaza on Miracle Mile (not to be confused with Joey’s Seafood Shack).

In fact, Zettle and one of YNOT’s owners ran Joey’s. Zettle said YNOT already has lost business to Vero bars.

“The county really should have been on top of it. They knew it was going to go through at the city, they should have done theirs at the same time,” he said. “They leave here and go to the city.”

The major chain eatery with a bar most likely to benefit from the extended hours would be TGIFriday’s at the Indian River Mall, due to the after-movie crowd as AMC Indian River 24 lists 13 different movies with start times of 10 p.m. or later.

At TGIFriday’s, daily hours of operation listed on their website are 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., but manager Emily Page said the bar crowd thins out around midnight. “We usually close at 12 o’clock,” she said, noting that movie-goers generally drink before the late show.

“But maybe we’ll stay open later, I don’t know. We are the only ones open late out here, the other restaurants close at midnight and we do have some employees from the other restaurants who hang out here later after they close.”

One exception to the scant late-night crowd, Page said, would be Thursday nights when AMC Indian River 24 premieres a popular movie at midnight.

“Then we are busy late,” she said.