2 a.m. closing for Vero bars will be made permanent
Vero Beach bars will be able to stay open until 2 a.m. for the foreseeable future, after the City Council on Tuesday directed staff to draft an ordinance that will make the late closing time part of the permanent city code. The 2 a.m. cutoff for bar hours was instituted on a one-year trial basis last May and would have expired on June 15 if the Council had not acted. The prior closing time was 1 a.m.
When the Vero Beach City Council instituted the 2 a.m. closing time last May, the city did so with the caveat that the council members would review the fallout of the decision in a year. Now it’s time to take the matter back up.
Police Chief David Currey and his staff reviewed a year’s worth of statistics for calls for service, DUIs and incidents related directly to 13 drinking establishments in the city that have enough late-night traffic to warrant staying open until 2 a.m.
Included in the report were Uncle Sam’s Brau House, Filthy McNasty’s Pub, Kilted Mermaid, The Stamp Bar, The Grove, Rosie Malloy’s, Vero Beach Sports Grille, Long Branch Saloon, Cunningham’s, Kelly’s Irish Pub, What-A-Tavern, and on the island, Riverside Café and Mulligan’s.
In the 12 months prior to the closing-time change, there were a total of 20 calls related to those 13 bars in the last hour they were open until 30 minutes after closing. Since the change, there have been 34 calls during the relevant 90-minute time frame. Of those calls, 18 have been categorized as “disturbances,” while 11 were for noise, three for DUIs and two for public intoxication.
“There’s 14 more calls, essentially one extra call a month looking at those 13 establishments, so it hasn’t been significant,” Currey said. “The one real uptick has been Cunningham’s and we’ve had the owner in here working with him to see what we can do about that whenever we’ve had problems.”
Cunningham’s, a billiards bar on Miracle Mile which accounted for 12 of the 18 disturbance calls between 1 and 2:30 a.m. over the past year, hosts a themed night with a “hip-hop flavor” on Thursdays, Currey said, and that’s when there were more calls for service.
“We saw an increase in DUIs overall, but it’s not always connected,” Currey said, as people could be leaving parties at private homes, restaurants or hotel bars which were not included in the 13 taverns.
“Plus we’ve gotten some new officers that are more aggressive about DUIs, and when I say aggressive I mean more traffic-oriented,” Currey said. “I think the later you go – two, three, four in the morning, there are fewer vehicles on the road, so the ones that are on the road do tend to stand out more.”
“We’re definitely not getting any less busy,” Currey said.
Local bar owners had petitioned the city council for the later closing time, saying that they were losing business to competitors outside Indian River County where the closing time ran later than 1 a.m. Former Councilman Craig Fletcher had been the chief opponent of the extension to 2 a.m. closing time while he was still on the council. The one-year review period was suggested, in part, to get Fletcher on board with the change.
“The Ordinance provides for a June 15, 2015 sunset of the expanded hours and automatic reversion to 1:00 a.m. as the cutoff time for sales, service and consumption of alcoholic beverages unless reviewed and saved from sunset through reenactment by the city council,” City Attorney Wayne Coment said prior to the Council’s directive to staff.