Last January the City Commission voted 3-2 to change the closing time for restaurants and nightclubs from 2:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. The change kept in place the law that requires all establishments to stop selling beer, wine and liquor by 2 a.m. The change went into effect in February, 2016. You can read our report on the vote here.
However, now it appears the change in the law may have created unintended consequences.
TR has learned that the change, supported by Mayor Gillum and Commissioners Miller and Richardson, may have created a situation that presents enforcement challenges for the Tallahassee Police Department.
Previously, alcohol sales ended at 2:00 a.m. and the establishment had until about 2:30 to empty the premises and close.
With the new ordinance, alcohol can be sold until 2:00 a.m., but the establishment can stay open until 4 a.m.
Under the new ordinance, TR has been told that establishments can legally “bulk sell” alcoholic drinks before 2:00 a.m. and those drinks can be consumed on the premises of the night club until 4:00 a.m.
This scenario creates enforcement issues for police officers.
For example, what happens if a police officer walks into a nightclub at 3:00 or 3:30 a.m. and witnesses people consuming alcohol. How does the officer know if the alcohol was sold before 2:00 a.m. or after?
This situation was created because the change in the law moved the closing time of nightclubs further away from the 2:00 a.m. prohibition on alcohol sales. The 2:00 a.m. prohibition is on alcohol sales, not consumption.
If this is the case, the change in bar hours passed by the City Commission effectively extended the “consumption hours” of alcohol from 2:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.
TR has learned that TPD has reached out to the City Attorney’s office for direction.
The City Attorney, Lew Shelley, told TR that they are evaluating the concerns raised by TPD to determine if changes to the recently passed ordinance will be required.