Late bar hours fail in Cape Coral council split vote, 4-4

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CAPE CORAL, Fla.- A motion to reconsider extending late bar hours in Cape Coral’s entertainment district failed Monday after city council members split votes, 4-4; but residents likely have not seen the last push to see later bar hours return.

Emotions ran high among council members and resident in a packedĀ chamber.

“I think the council should’ve given it at least another try,” said supporter Kathy Cain. “My son and daughter-in-law both are bartenders at Dixie and they’re going to hurt from it.”

Just last Monday, city leadersĀ voted to end the trial programĀ butĀ on Thursday,Ā council member Jessica Cosden sent a memo to the mayor and city council asking them to reconsider the vote and keep bars open until 4 a.m.

Cosden’s proposal would have kept bars open laterĀ and include a larger police presence,Ā not funded by taxpayers. On Monday she said

“The pressure from the community has been great, but the pressure from inside — myself — was more because I felt I didn’t vote with my conscience Monday night last week,” Cosden said.

AĀ long line of people emptied into the room at the start of the 4:30 p.m. meeting, while overflow seating was prepared forĀ those who could not fit into the chamber.Ā The public comment portion of the meeting was extended so more people could voice their concerns. Individuals were still getting up to speak two hours after the meeting began.

Supporters of the extended bar hours showed their solidarity by sporting blue shirts that read “KEEP SOUTH CAPE OPEN LATE.” One restaurant owner, Shannon Yates,Ā said his business in theĀ southern district has thrived since the extended bar hours were instated, even though his restaurant closed before 4 a.m. Yates owns the Nevermind Awesome Bar and Eatery.

“We were up almost 60% in sales tax revenue,” he said. “Looking around the neighborhood at the rest of our partners in the neighborhood, we all enjoyed big weekends throughout the entire year.”

Some residents are convinced that Cape Coral bars should permanently return to closing at 2 a.m. and express concerns about police resources, increased crime and drunk driving.

“Two o’clock’s fine. It always has been. Everyplace I’ve lived it’s been fine and with the increased crime and the need for police that they’re going to have to pay for somehow — I just can’t understand it,” said Rich Leung.

By the meeting’sĀ ending, fourĀ council members agreed.

“There is absolutely a very legitimate reason for saying we don’t want bars from 2 to 4 in the morning,” a council member, Jim Burch, said.

But Councilman Richard Leon said on Monday that he plans to draft a new ordinance about the bar hours that he will present to Cape Coral council members.

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