A review of campaign records show that the two City Commissioners running for office in this upcoming election accepted over $7,500 in campaign donations from bar owners, individuals and corporations that had an interest in the issue of bar closing times.
Approximately $6,300 of the $7,500 came from donors that supported extending night club hours to 4 a.m.
Last week the City Commission voted 3-2 to extend bar hours to 4 a.m. However, no alcohol can be served after 2 a.m.
City Commissioner Curtis Richardson voted with Commissioner Nancy Miller and Mayor Andrew Gillum to extend hours.
City Commissioners Gil Ziffer and Commissioner Scott Maddox voted against the measure, but supported a 3 a.m. closing time.
Campaign records show that City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, who is running for re-election, accepted $2,350 in campaign donations from donors who favored extending bar hours to 4 a.m. Richardson voted to extend bar hours.
City Commissioner Scott Maddox, who has filed to run for Leon County School Superintendent, accepted approximately $5,100. Approximately $4,000 of those donations came from donors who supported extending bar hours to 4 a.m.
However, Maddox voted against extending business hours to 4 a.m.
The City Commission began looking at the issue of bar hours during the middle of last year. Also, during 2015 two entertainment businesses supporting later closing hours, Icon, LLC and Coliseum Tallahassee, LLC, hired a lobbyist for the issue.
The campaign donations began flowing into Commissioner Maddox’s campaign in late October of 2015 and Commissioner Richardson received donations from interested parties in late November and early December.
Commissioner Maddox and Ziffer argued that public safety resources could be stressed with later operating hours during a time when the City is struggling with crime issues.
Leon County led the state of Florida in crime in 2014 and data published by FDLE for the first half of 2015 showed increases in violent crime. See our report here.
However, Commissioner Miller and Commissioner Richardson never directly addressed the public safety issue and Mayor Gillum made statements that indicated it was not an overriding concern.
Commissioner Richardson and Miller argued the earlier closing time would have a negative impact on jobs.
Is it rare for bar owners to contribute to City Commissioners?
TR researched the three previous City Commission races in 2014 and did not find nearly the same level of donations from bar owners and entertainment related businesses during those races.
In fact, the donations made in 2015 appear to be the first donations made by the majority of these entertainment businesses.